04/26/2012 3:16PM

Belmont: No easy task for To Honor and Serve in return


ELMONT, N.Y. – Even as Bill Mott tries to explain that Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester is just a prep for To Honor and Serve to get to next month’s Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, it’s hard to believe the Hall of Fame trainer won’t have his horse ready for a big effort.

And even though the seven-horse field for the Westchester includes fellow Grade 1 winners Boys At Tosconova and Jersey Town – both with recent good form – it’s hard to believe To Honor and Serve isn’t still the horse to beat in the first graded event of the Belmont spring/summer meet.

[WESTCHESTER STAKES: Download PPs and wager on the full Saturday Belmont card]

The Westchester, a one-turn mile, will be To Honor and Serve’s first race since he won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last Nov. 26. It will be To Honor and Serve’s first race at Belmont since he won a 1 1/16-mile maiden event here by 8 3/4 lengths in Oct. 2010.

“I don’t think it’s an easy race going a mile,” Mott said this week. “There are horses on their game coming off good races, fit and cranked up. For some of them, it’d be a very important race.”

For Mott, the Met Mile is the important race for To Honor and Serve, who wintered at Payson Park, where he had eight timed workouts. His final breeze came over Belmont’s main track on Wednesday when he went a half-mile in 47.60 seconds.

“It has not been a rush job to get him ready,” Mott said. “We had plenty of time. I don’t think we squeezed him.”

In a race that seems loaded with early speed types, To Honor and Serve, who is also quick, drew nicely in post 6.

Boys At Tosconova drew poorly by getting the rail. Boys At Tosconova, the 2010 Grade 1 Hopeful winner, has won three consecutive allowance races but has yet to show trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. the brilliance he displayed at 2.

Dutrow had to keep Boys At Tosconova out of the Gulfstream Park Handicap, due to some hind end issues. Dutrow said Boys At Tosconova has been sharp around the barn and needs to run.

“He wants to bite everybody. He’s really, really sharp right now,” Dutrow said. “It doesn’t mean he’s going to run any bigger, but it does mean he needs to run. He’s very angry, aggressive – not on the racetrack – but around the barn. He’s very bossy.”

Ramon Dominguez has the call.

Jersey Town came off a near five-month layoff with a solid runner-up finish to Travelin Man in the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 31. Robin Smullen, the assistant trainer for Barclay Tagg, said the plan is to get Jersey Town to rate.

“Edgar [Prado] thought he was quite rateable last time,” Smullen said. “If he can rate him in 46 or 47 [seconds] I’m hoping that puts him a couple lengths off it.”

Due to his two stakes victories this year, Marilyn’s Guy is the 123-pound starting highweight, spotting 2 pounds to To Honor and Serve and 4 to Boys At Tosconova.

Tony Dutrow, the trainer of Marilyn’s Guy, said he has some reservations about running against such a tough group but may not have any other options.

“That ain’t enough money for that kind of race in my opinion,” Dutrow said, “and my opinion is what counts because he’s my horse. My horse is ready; he’s good and all that.”

Bold Deed, a half-brother to Jerome winner The Lumber Guy, comes off a monster effort in a second-level New York-bred allowance last out. He gets the services of the nation’s leading rider, Javier Castellano.

Longshot Ponzi Scheme completes the field.


Westchester Stakes (G3), Post Time: 5:06 ET Saturday

Purse: $150,000; 1 mile





ML Odds


Boys at Tosconova

R. Dutrow, Jr.

R. Dominguez



Jersey Town

B. Tagg

E. Prado



Ponzi Scheme

J. Serey

J. Alvarado



Goombada Guska

S. Asmussen

R. Napravnik



Marilyn's Guy

A. Dutrow

J. Velazquez



To Honor and Serve

W. Mott

J. Lezcano



Bold Deed

M. Hushion

J. Castellano