Hopeful (gr. I) and Sanford Stakes (gr. II) winner Afleet Alex hopes to keep his record unblemished Saturday as he takes on seven of his fellow 2-year-old brethren in the 133rd running of the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
With juvenile supremacy in the East on the line, a group of eight juveniles have passed the entry box for the Champagne--led by the summer's top performer in Afleet Alex--which has sent five winners of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Stakes (gr. I) forward.
The son of Northern Afleet
has been impressive in four trips to the post in 2004, coming on with a flurry in the Hopeful after early trouble to clip Devil's Disciple by a neck at the wire. His wins have come by a combined total of almost 29 lengths, and his first attempt at the 1 1/16-miles distance in the Champagne seems not to be an issue as he breezed a mile in 1:37 3/5 for conditioner Tim Ritchie Sept. 22 at Delaware Park.
The Saratoga star was bred in Florida by John Martin Silvertand, and races for Cash is King Stables. He should get his preferred stalking trip with regular rider Jeremy Rose aboard for a trip from post 6.
Looking to knock out the undisputed East Coast leader will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Proud Accolade. The son of Yes It's True
has been stellar in his two outings, taking them by a combined total of 13 lengths. The Champagne will mark the first entrance into stakes company for the Padua Stables up-and-comer, who was bred in Florida by Mario Montanari.
Pletcher seeks his first Champagne win with Proud Accolade and will offer John Velazquez -- winner of the 1996 Champagne with Ordway--the honors for the trip. The pair will exit from the outside post and should be up near the lead early if the position doesn't prove to be a hindrance.
Four-time Champagne winner Nick Zito will send out Tracy Farmer's Sun King, victorious Sept. 17 in a maiden race over the surface going a mile. Bred in Kentucky by Cambridge Farm and James Daniel Conway, the son of Charismatic retains the services of Javier Castellano and has shown the ability to close and to stay out front.
Castellano and Sun King will start from the 7-hole.
Chari-Mari Stable's Futurity Stakes (gr. II, Belmont, Sept. 19) champ Park Avenue Ball gets "Jersey" Joe Bravo in the irons for an inside trip from the second spot. The son of Citidancer
has three wins in his four trips to the post and earnings of $263,600, second only in the race to Afleet Alex.
Bred in New Jersey by Charles Hesse, the colt's win over the track in the one-mile Futurity should give his backers some confidence as they head to the windows.
Futurity runner-up Wallstreet Scandal (Mt. Livermore), All Trumps (Grand Slam), One Fein Dad (Skip Away
) and Silver Train (Old Trieste) round out the field from the rail out.Champagne Stakes (gr. I), 2-year-olds, 1-1/16 miles, $500,000, Saturday, Oct. 9. Appx. Post Time 4:26 PM EDT.
1--Wallstreet Scandal, Shaun Bridgmohan
2--Park Avenue Ball, Joe Bravo
3--All Trumps, Cornelio Velasquez
4--One Fein Dad, Richard Migliore
5--Silver Train, Mike Smith
6--Afleet Alex, Jeremy Rose
7--Sun King, Javier Castellano
8--Proud Accolade, John Velazquez