Switched back to his preferred surface on turf after running against the top 3-year-olds on dirt and synthetics most of the year, Brilliant Speed responded by emphatically winning the Saranac (gr. IIIT) in his last start.
The son of Dynaformer looks to continue his accomplished season in the $250,000 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) Oct. 8 at Belmont Park. He was pegged as the 9-5 morning-line favorite against seven other sophomores in the 1 1/8-mile event.
Post time for the Jamaica, the first of three grade I races on Belmont’s Saturday card, is set for 4:13 p.m. EDT.
Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Brilliant Speed came from off the pace to take the Sept. 4 Saranac by 2 1/2 lengths as the 2-1 favorite. It was the first turf try for the colt since he finished a close-up second in a pair of Gulfstream Park stakes at the beginning of the year.
Brilliant Speed won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on the Keeneland Polytrack in April, setting him up for runs in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). He finished third in the latter, and came back to try dirt once again in the July 30 Jim Dandy (gr. II), where he was a non-threatening fifth. Trainer Tom Albertrani decided to return Brilliant Speed to turf for the Saranac, which turned out to be a wise decision.
“I was disappointed that he didn’t run better in the Jim Dandy, but it’s kind of like we got away with running him on the dirt a couple of times,” said Albertrani. “Just from past experience, sometimes you’ll get a typical grass horse, as he is, and you might get a good race on the dirt. I was disappointed in the Jim Dandy, but I was happy to see him come back in the Saranac. He got the right surface, and he finished the way I was hoping to see. I was really pleased with that race, and he’s been training very well since.”
John Velazquez will have the ride on Brilliant Speed, who will give four to five pounds to his rivals while carrying 121 pounds.
Brilliant Speed is the lone grade I winner in the field, but the well-travelled Wilkinson does have a grade III score to his credit.
Gallardia Racing’s Wilkinson will be making the 10th start of his season and will return to Keeneland for the first time since finishing 10th in the Blue Grass. In the interim, the Lemon Drop Kid colt has raced at Churchill Downs, Thistledown, Saratoga (twice), and Belmont. Two starts back he won an optional claimer on the Saratoga turf and last out in the Sept. 16 Summing Stakes he finished third to current entrant Top Surprize.
Wilkinson, trained by Neil Howard, picked up his lone graded stakes win in the LeComte Stakes (gr. III) back in January at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Alan Garcia will have the call.
Top Surprize won the Summing by 3 1/4 lengths in his first start since being claimed for $50,000 by Naipaul and Terikchand Chatterpaul. The son of Pure Prize has been claimed three times this season, the first time out of a $35,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream back in April. He has won five of 10 starts in 2011, with the Summing being his stakes debut.
“I kind of liked his running style,” said Naipaul Chatterpaul, explaining his reasons for the sharp claim. “He seemed like a nice horse. He was doing well, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s all about giving it a shot.”
Vinery Stables’ Western Aristocrat will make his U.S. debut after six starts in England. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, the Mr. Greeley colt was third in the group III Jersey Stakes at Ascot in June and won a one-mile minor stakes on the Kempton Park Polytrack in his most recent start on Sept. 15. Corey Nakatani will have the mount. He will race on Salix for the first time.
Another son of Dynaformer, Casino Host, seeks his first grade I victory. Owned by Gary and Mary West, he exits a fifth-place finish over yielding turf in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park on Aug. 13, a race which followed his game third-place effort over firm ground in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) behind multiple graded stakes winners Air Support and Banned.
Casino Host’s two most recent starts came at 1 1/4 miles, and in the Jamaica he will return to the 1 1/8-mile distance at which he broke his maiden.
“I’m going to keep an eye on the ground; he definitely prefers firmer ground, like he got in Virginia,” said trainer Chad Brown. “If he gets that kind of ground, I’ll be very, very pleased. The horse couldn’t be doing any better and I think (the distance) is perfect. He can run further, but I think 1 1/8 miles is right in his wheelhouse.”
Casino Host is the 2-1 morning-line second choice.
$250,000 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT, Race 7, 4:13 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Casino Host (KY), A O Solis, 116, C C Brown
2. Rustler Hustler (PA), J Lezcano, 116, W I Mott
3. Wilkinson (KY), A Garcia, 116, N J Howard
4. Seal Cove (KY), J Castellano, 117, C R McGaughey III
5. Western Aristocrat (KY), C S Nakatani, 116, J Noseda
6. Brilliant Speed (FL), J R Velazquez, 121, T Albertrani
7. Top Surprize (KY), R Maragh, 116, N Chatterpaul
8. Sky Blazer (KY), C H Velasquez, 116, B Tagg