06/08/2011 3:07PM

Belmont Park: Courageous Cat, Court Vision iffy for Poker


ELMONT, N.Y. – If the field stays together for Friday’s $100,000 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park, it shapes up as a very competitive Grade 3 stakes. Multiple graded winners Courageous Cat and Court Vision will have to deal with the ever-improving Right One in the one-mile turf race scheduled for the Widener turf course.

However, the connections of Courageous Cat and Court Vision are not certain to run. Courageous Cat is being considered for the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park three weeks from now while Court Vision’s connections could scratch if the two-day heat wave engulfing this part of the country doesn’t break.

But for now, with both horses in the entry box, it’s a serious horse race, though one lacking significant pace, which figures to benefit Courageous Cat.

Winner of the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at 3 and the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at 4, Courageous Cat makes his first start since running third in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last Oct. 9. The Shadwell was his one and only start since finishing ninth in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan on March 27, 2010.

According to trainer Bill Mott, Courageous Cat entrapped his epiglottis in the Shadwell and underwent corrective throat surgery. He has been working steadily over the Belmont Park turf and Mott said he believes his horse is ready to run.

“I’m satisfied to run here,” said Mott, who noted he was going to have a discussion with owner Marty Wygod before making a final decision. “The horse is doing well, he’s fit enough to have a race. He’s only had one race in 15 months. The advantage is walking out of your own backdoor as opposed to shipping and run.”

The other advantage is Courageous Cat looms as the controlling speed.

“He can lay up close,” said Mott, noting that the outside horse, Yield Bogey, has shown speed on occasion.

Court Vision, a multiple Grade 1 winner, is coming off a ninth-place finish in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, which was run over a turf that certainly had give in the ground. Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said that Court Vision’s participation could depend on how hot it is. If Dutrow deems it too hot, the horse won’t run.

Right One has taken advantage of swift paces to win his first two starts in this country for trainer Christophe Clement. It doesn’t appear that same type of pace dynamic will be in play on Friday.

“He’s run the same kind of race twice, really strongly run races,” Clement said. “This is going to be a different scenario, let’s hope he can adapt to a different scenario.”

Beau Choix, second to Right One in an overnight stakes here on May 12; Riviera Cocktail, fifth in the Fort Marcy last out; and Yield Bogey complete the lineup.