07/05/2017 2:52PM

European invaders look formidable in Belmont Derby, Oaks

Joe Labozzetta
Oscar Performance, coming off a win in the Pennine Ridge, will face some talented Europeans gunning for a big purse in the Belmont Derby.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The European contingent for Saturday’s Stars and Stripes Racing Festival at Belmont Park is not large, but it is, as always, dangerous.

Aidan O’Brien’s duo of Homesman and Whitecliffsofdover for the $1.2 million Belmont Derby and Key To My Heart for the $1 million Belmont Oaks arrived from Ireland on Tuesday and were due out of quarantine in time to train Thursday.

Meanwhile, the French invader Called To The Bar, entered in the Derby, arrived here last weekend and on Wednesday got a feel for the Belmont turf course, breezing three furlongs in 38.22 seconds under exercise rider Hillevi Ljungqvist.

“He felt good, he liked it. He turned well, [Ljungqvist] was happy,” said Carl Brandt, assistant trainer to his wife, Pia.

Last fall, the Brandts shipped in Rymska for the Grade 3 Miss Grillo, and she ran second to New Money Honey. After the Miss Grillo, a majority interest in Rymska was purchased by U.S. connections, and she remained in the U.S. with trainer Chad Brown.

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Called To The Bar has won his last two starts, including the Group 3 Prix de Lys at Saint-Cloud on May 23. As a gelding, Called To The Bar is ineligible to compete in many French races and thus could not run in the Group 2 Prix Hocquart at Chantilly on June 18. The three horses who finished behind Called To The Bar in the Prix de Lys ran 1-2-3 in the Prix Hocquart.

Carl Brandt said the 1 1/4 miles of the Belmont Derby should be ideal for Called To The Bar, who has already won at the distance. Brandt said he wouldn’t mind seeing some rain to take the sting out of what has been a very firm turf course.

Called To The Bar drew post 5 in an 11-horse field entered Tuesday for the Belmont Derby, which goes as race 10 on an 11-race card. Maxime Guyon will ride.

The American contingent is led by Oscar Performance, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at 2 and is coming off a sharp victory in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge here on June 3.

Good Samaritan and Ticonderoga, second and third in the Pennine Ridge, are in the Belmont Derby, as are Arklow and Big Score, the first- and third-place finishers from the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on May 6. Big Score came out of that race to run second in the Penn Mile.

Yoshida, the impressive winner of the James W. Murphy Stakes, could go favored in the Belmont Derby. Makarios and Senior Investment complete the field.

Brown enters four in Oaks

Brown won the first two runnings of the Belmont Oaks and the last two runnings of the Garden City – which became the Belmont Oaks in 2014 – before that. Brown’s streak of success in this Grade 1 turf race for 3-year-old fillies came to an end last year when his three runners finished fourth, seventh, and eighth.

Brown entered four runners in Saturday’s Belmont Oaks, led by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner New Money Honey and European imports Sistercharlie and Uni. Brown also entered Fifty Five, the winner of the Florida Oaks when trained by Tom Bush.

Sistercharlie is a recent arrival to Brown’s barn and is coming off a second-place finish in a Group 1 race at Chantilly on June 18. Uni won a listed stakes in France on May 11. Uni drew post 7, and Sistercharlie drew post 12.

New Money Honey bounced back from a disappointing effort in the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland with a front-running victory in the Wonder Again on June 8.

“She came back and showed her true self in the Wonder Again, which we’re all relieved to see, and has trained well since,” Brown said.

New Money Honey won the Wonder Again on the lead but has been equally effective from off the pace. With the exception of Dynatail, the Oaks field appears to lack speed. Dynatail is coming off a front-running victory in the Penn Oaks, but that was going a mile. New Money Honey will break from post 8.

Coasted, who broke poorly when fourth in the Wonder Again, could be up close if she breaks well from the rail under new rider Joel Rosario.
The field includes Beau Recall, Violet Blue, Grizzel, Key To My Heart, Journey Home, and Daddys Lil Darling.