05/27/2013 11:55AM

Grade 1 Racing Returns to Belmont


Arader Galleries[Great Metropolitan Stakes, Jerome Park, Decoration Day 1881]


The first three Grade 1 races at Belmont Park this year will be run in succession this afternoon: The Ogden Phipps Handicap for older fillies at 4:45 pm, the Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 5:17 pm and the Metropolitan Handicap at 5:49 pm.

They are the last three legs of a $500k guaranteed all-graded stakes pick-4 that begins at 4:13 pm with the G2 Sands Point for 3-year-old turf fillies. Here are the lineups:

The four stakes also comprise the middle of a pick-6 with a $37k carryover that begins in Race 6 with a sprint for older maidens and ends with race 11 for $20k conditioned claimers.

It's 70 degrees and sunny, the main track is fast and the turf is firm.

The Phipps, Acorn and Met Mile are the 24th, 25th and 26th of the 111 Grade 1 races scheduled to be run in the United States this year. Here's how the first 23 turned out, and the schedule through the end of June:

I'll be back later on with some thoughts and plays.


1:50 pm: Decoration Day opener went to 36-1 Royal Blessings, making his first start since being pulled up and vanned off last July 12. (Wonder if he was tallied as a fatality in psudo-scientific surveys that equate all instances of being vanned off with catastrophic injury?)

Some unusual-looking fractional and final times posted in race 2:

According to my NYRA Decoder Ring, that translates to 23.64, 46.98, 1:11.40 and 1:35.88.


3:30 pm: Passing on the Pick-6, here's the play for the pick-4 starting in race 7:

Here's the thinking:

Race 7 (Sands Point): Watsdachances is probably best, may have needed her season debut. Unbelievable Dream looked good beating her in the Appalachian, one to beat of Watsdachances doesn't rebound. Discreet Marq didn't seem quite as good as those two when last seen but is lone speed here and first-time Clement.

Race 8 (Phipps): Not convinced Joyful Victory's big Santa Margarita victory wasn't aided by track and soft opposition, so I prefer Disposable Pleasure and Believe You Can today.

Race 9 (Acorn): Can't separate favorites Kauai Katie and Midnight Lucky -- they're the fastest in the field and the distance is perfect for both.

Race 10 (Met Mile): The 1-2 Westchester finishers, Flat Out and Cross Traffic, should dominate if they run back to that race. I lean towards Flat Out because there may be more pace here with several stretchouts from the Carter. Of those, I like Sahara Sky.


4:20 pm: Discreet Marq rode a soft pace to a front-running victory in the Sands Point, but no excuses for Watsdachances, The 2-1 fave was a close third on the outside just off the pokey fractions, looked ready to pounce at the top of the stretch, but simply flattened out in her second disappointing effort this year. Wave Theory, who like Watsdachances is trained by Chad Brown, was better than her uncoupled barnmate, altering course off the rail late to be up for second, beaten three-quarters of a length. Unbelievable Dream and Caroline Thomas, far back off the slow pace, could make no impact late.

Discreet Marq, a New York-bred Discreet Cat-To Marquet filly owned and bred by Patricia Generazio, had not raced since January 27, after which she was switched from trainer Jane Cibelli to Christophe Clement. Today she ran the mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.50 under Jose Lezcano after fractions of 25.57, 49.64, 1:13.46 and 1:36.57.


4:55 pm: Tiz Miz Sue ($10.80) rallied into a hot pace to win the G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap by half a length over a game Authenticity as the Larry Jones-trained pair of Grade 1 winners, Joyful Victory and Believe You Can, brought up the rear in the six-filly field.

Tiz Miz Sue, who had not won a Grade 1 in six previous tries at that level despite some solid efforts like a half-length defeat in the Apple Blossom last time out, forged to the lead after Joyful Victory and Authenticity carved out fractions of 22.82, 45.41 and 1:09.57. Authenticity (7-1) was good to hold second, with 19-1 Centring up late for third beaten 1 3/4, and it was another 10 lengths back to Disposable Pleasure nosing out even-money Joyful Victory for 4th.

Tiz Miz Sue, a 6-year-old Tiznow bred and owned by CresRan and trained by Steve Hobby, ran the mile and a sixteenth in 1:40.81 under Joe Rocco.


5:25 pm: Midnight Lucky ($4.20), a disappointment at 3-1 when rushed into the Kentucky Oaks in her third career start last time out, scored a dominant daylight victory in the Acorn over Close Hatches and Kauai Katie.

The Midnight Lute filly, a 7 1/4-length winner of her debut and an 8-length winner of the Sunland Oaks, tracked the longshot leader Momentary Magic to the turn, then shot clear in upper stretch. Close Hatches, who made a briefly menacing four-wide move on the turn, flattened out but held second. Kauai Katie, the 8-5 second choice, was bottled up at the inside throughout the race and had no late kick, settling for third.

Midnight Lucky, owned by Wtason, Pegram and partners and trained by Bob Baffert, ran the mile in 1:35.11 under Rosie Napravnik, who was riding her for the first time.


5:35 pm: Here are the multirace willpays into the Met Mile, where Flat Out has opened the 5-2 favorite:


6:05 pm: Sahara Sky ($11.80) was up in the very last stride to nose out a very determined Cross Traffic and win the Met Mile.

Cross Traffic set a strong pace from the get-go, leading through a half in 44.68 and 6f in 1:09.20, and pulled clear of his pursuers in mid-stretch. Sahara Sky, however, was gaining with every stride and just got there.

Sahara Sky, a 5-year-old by Pleasant Tap, is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by the trainer and Kim Lloyd. He won the G2 San Carlos and G2 Palos Verdes at Santa Anita this winter before finishing a closing second in the G1 Carter last month. Joel Rosario rode the winner, who was timed in 1:34.17.

Flat Out, who got caught in traffic on the turn, was along for third with Mark Valeski fourth.

Sahara Sky completed an all-stakes pick-4 that returned $810 for $2, not ungenerous for winners at 5-2, 4-1, even money and 9-2.


6:10 pm: Here are the willpays into the finale. Looks like 9 of the 12 are covered in the pick-6:

Good night and good luck.