07/11/2013 2:59PM

Belmont: Boisterous a capable sub for Shug in Man o' War

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Boisterous, winning the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes, owns a 3-for-4 record at the 1 3/8-mile distance of the Man o' War.

ELMONT, N.Y. – With defending Man o’ War Stakes winner Point of Entry recovering from a hind leg injury, trainer Shug McGaughey hopes Boisterous can be a suitable substitution in Saturday’s 55th renewal of the Grade 1 marathon turf stakes at Belmont Park.

Coming off a win in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes on June 9, Boisterous could be poised to win his most prestigious race to date in the $600,000 Man o’ War, a 1 3/8-mile race scheduled for the inner turf course with a field of eight.

Boisterous, a 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor, is 10 for 24 lifetime, including 5 for 8 at Belmont Park, where he has won two runnings of the Grade 3 Knickerbocker, and the Grade 3 Fort Marcy.

In two starts this year, Boisterous finished second to Successful Dan in the Ben Ali over Keeneland’s synthetic surface before winning the Monmouth Stakes over Big Blue Kitten, who came back to win last weekend’s Grade 1 United Nations.

“His last race was as good as I’ve ever seen him run,” McGaughey said of Boisterous. “Really, his race at Keeneland was a bang-up race, and he’s really done well since then. He’s never won a Grade 1, and I’ve always thought he was a Grade 1-type of a horse.”

Boisterous is 3 for 4 at 1 3/8 miles, his only loss a third to Cape Blanco in the 2011 running of the Man o’ War. His ability to handle any type of ground – from firm to yielding – also is an advantage, given the unsettled forecast Friday into Saturday morning.

John Velazquez, who has never won the Man o’ War, has the call on Boisterous from post 6.

There are several in here who could be impacted by course condition, perhaps no one more than Twilight Eclipse. A 4-year-old gelding by Purim, Twilight Eclipse set a world record for 1 1/2 miles winning the Grade 2 Pan American in a time of 2:22.63 over a firm Gulfstream turf. In his most recent start, Twilight Eclipse finished fifth in the Manhattan over yielding turf.

The ominous clouds over Belmont on Thursday morning were an unwelcome sight to Tom Albertrani, who trains Twilight Eclipse for West Point Thoroughbreds.

“Hoping the rain holds off so we get a little firm ground,” Albertrani said. “You could see his two best races are on firm ground. A couple of times where we expected him to run better he just didn’t perform well on the softer going.”

Al Khali is another who prefers firm turf, though he did not run well in his last start, finishing seventh in the Elkhorn at Keeneland in April.
Optimizer, who figures to be among the pacesetters breaking from the rail, has run well on less than firm turf, but his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said he would prefer firm ground Saturday.

“He’s a horse that gets you into the race, is around the pace, or makes the pace,” Lukas said. “He’s better on firm turf.”

Finnegans Wake, trained by Dale Romans, is winless in eight prior graded stakes tries, including a fourth-place finish in last month’s Manhattan.

Speaking of Which, trained by Christophe Clement, got a confidence booster winning a second-level allowance race at Monmouth last month and is a Group 3 winner in Europe at 1 1/4 miles.

In 2010, trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul came within a neck of upsetting the Man o’ War with 53-1 shot Mission Approved, whom he claimed a month earlier for $40,000. On Saturday, he will try to upset the Man o’ War with Folk Singer, a horse he claimed for $25,000 in April at Tampa Bay.

Exclusive Strike, who won a starter allowance here May 24, completes the field.

The Man o’ War goes as race 9 on an 11-race program and is the second leg of a pick four wager that has a guaranteed pool of $300,000.