09/08/2011 3:13PM

Belmont Park: Cream of the crop eyeing meet's stakes

Tom Keyser
Tizway (above) may meet Travers winner Stay Thirsty in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

ELMONT, N.Y. – While the Belmont fall meet has lost its championship moniker in the Breeders’ Cup era, it has the potential to regain that lofty status this year.

The 37-day meet that begins Saturday and runs through Oct. 30 will feature 31 stakes – 21 graded – with purses totaling $6.2 million. The biggest days of the meet are Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 during which eight of the nine Grade 1 races scheduled will be run.

There are some potentially intriguing match-ups with significant championship implications for the Oct. 1 card that will include five Grade 1 races as well as the Grade  2 Kelso, which is now expected to be the next start for Uncle Mo. The winners of all six graded stakes that day earn automatic berths into their respective Breeders’ Cup races with all-entry fees paid.

While it’s still early, here’s a sneak peak at some of those match-ups:

◗ In the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Tizway, winner of the Metropolitan and Whitney handicaps and the leading older male based on the East Coast – if not the country – is expected to face Travers winner and leading 3-year-old Stay Thirsty. Flat Out, winner of the Suburban and runner-up in the Whitney and Woodward is also expected.

◗ In the $350,000 Beldame Invitational, Havre de Grace, who just beat the boys in the Woodward at Saratoga, could take on Alabama winner Royal Delta, who is attempting to make a late push for 3-year-old filly honors. The connections of Blind Luck have not ruled this race out, but it is more likely she ends up in the Lady’s Secret at Santa Anita.

◗ In the $350,000 Vosburgh Invitational, defending sprint champion Big Drama, fresh off a comeback win at Calder last Sunday, is expected to take on Trappe Shot, the nose loser to the now-sidelined Sean Avery in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt. Trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday that Euroears, winner of the Grade  1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar on July 31 is more likely to head this way than The Factor, winner of the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien in his last start.

◗ In the $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, Cape Blanco, winner of the Man o’ War here in July and the Arlington Million at Chicago in August, is expected to make his third Trans-Atlantic trip for trainer Aidan O’Brien. Sword Dancer winner Winchester is also possible.

◗ In the $500,000 Flower Bowl Invitational, Beverly D. winner Stacelita will attempt to win her second Grade  1, which would certainly put her in the running for older filly and mare turf honors. Aruna, runner-up in the Diana, is also being pointed to this spot, trainer Graham Motion said Thursday.

◗ The Grade 2, $200,000 Kelso, run as a one-turn mile, will feature the 3-year-old Uncle Mo taking on older Grade 1 winners Jackson Bend and Jersey Town.

On Oct. 8, 2-year-olds will be in the spotlight in the Grade 1 Champagne, where Hopeful winner Currency Swap could take on Saratoga Special winner Union Rags as well as two of Saratoga’s most impressive debut winners, Fire on Ice and Alpha.

The Frizette for 2-year-old fillies, could feature a showdown between Adirondack winner My Miss Aurelia, and impressive second-out winner Stopshoppingmaria. Plans are uncertain for Spinaway winner Grace Hall.