07/04/2017 3:14PM

Oscar Performance, New Money Honey try to go the distance

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Joe Labozzetta
Oscar Performance goes wire to wire in the Penine Ridge Stakes in June, and has a good chance to do the same in the Belmont Derby on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The career trajectories of Oscar Performance and New Money Honey are remarkably similar.

Both won graded stakes at Belmont last fall that propelled them to Breeders’ Cup success last November. After disappointing starts to their 3-year-old season, both Oscar Performance and New Money Honey righted themselves with convincing front-running victories last month.

Saturday at Belmont Park, Oscar Performance and New Money Honey will both try to prove themselves at 1 1/4 miles when they head the respective fields for the $1.25 million Belmont Derby and $1 million Belmont Oaks.

The Belmont Derby, for 3-year-olds, and Belmont Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, headline an 11-race card that is billed as the Stars and Stripes Racing Festival. The card includes three other graded stakes: the Grade 2, $750,000 Suburban Stakes for older males, featuring Shaman Ghost; the Grade 3, $400,000 Dwyer for 3-year-olds, led by two-time Grade 1 winner Practical Joke; and the Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, which features Mind Your Biscuits and Unified and offers a fees-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November.

Oscar Performance drew post 4 in an 11-horse field entered Tuesday for the Belmont Derby, which goes as race 10 on the program.

Oscar Performance completed his 2-year-old season with a 1 1/4-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, a race in which he sat second early. He started his 3-year-old campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Transylvania and a last-place finish in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs, which was run over soft ground.

Left alone on the lead in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge here on June 3, Oscar Performance scored a 1 1/2-length victory over Good Samaritan and Ticonderoga, two horses he faces again on Saturday.

On paper, there doesn’t appear to be much early speed in the Belmont Derby. Whitecliffsofdover, one of two horses who arrived here Tuesday from Ireland for trainer Aidan O’Brien, has shown speed in his races at Ireland. Whitecliffsofdover drew post 10 and will be ridden by Wayne Lordan.

Brian Lynch, the trainer of Oscar Performance, said: “In the Pennine Ridge he got the mile and an eighth, and his last splits on that race were very, very fast. There’s no reason to say he was coming back to them at any stage. I’m sure he can carry that another eighth of a mile.”

The derby field, from the rail out, is: Good Samaritan, Ticonderoga, Homesman, Oscar Performance, Called To The Bar, Arklow, Yoshida, Makarios, Big Score, Whitecliffsofdover, and Senior Investment.

New Money Honey drew post 8 in a 12-horse field entered Tuesday for the Belmont Oaks, also at 1 1/4 miles. New Money Honey was one of four horses entered by trainer Chad Brown, who won this race in 2015 with Lady Eli. Brown also entered Fifty Five, Uni, and Sistercharlie.

New Money Honey stalked the pace winning the Miss Grillo here last October and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last November. She ran a dull sixth in the Appalachian at Keeneland to kick off her 3-year-old season but then recorded a front-running victory in the Grade 3 Wonder Again here 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.

With the exception of Dynatail, the Belmont Oaks is another race that seems to lack speed. Dynatail is coming off a front-running victory in the Penn Oaks, but that was going a mile.

Uni and Sistercharlie are both making their first start in the U.S and first for Brown. Sistercharlie won the Group 3 Prix Penelope at 1 5/16 miles at Saint-Cloud in France and then finished second in the Group 1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly on June 18. She drew the outside post for the Oaks.

Uni showed speed winning the Prix Matchem, a listed stakes in France in May. Unlike Sistercharlie, who just arrived this week, Uni has been training for more than a month at Belmont.

The Belmont Oaks field, from the rail out, is: Coasted, Beau Recall, Violet Blue, Grizzel, Key To My Heart, Journey Home, Uni, New Money Honey, Dynatail, Fifty Five, Daddys Lil Darling, and Sistercharlie.

Mind Your Biscuits, Unified meet in Belmont Sprint

Mind Your Biscuits, winner of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, and Unified who beat Mind Your Biscuits in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship in February, head a seven-horse field entered Tuesday for Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship.

The Belmont Sprint Championship, run at seven furlongs, is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, run at six furlongs on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Trainer Chad Summers has targeted the Belmont Sprint Championship for Mind Your Biscuits since the horse's Dubai victory in late March. Mind Your Biscuits was given a month out of training, but has had several sharp workouts leading up to this.

“This time we want to make sure we’re not a neck short, we’re a neck ahead,” said Summers, referring to the margin of defeat to Unified in the Gulfstream Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Mind Your Biscuits drew post 2 and will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

Unified was beaten a neck by Green Gratto in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct in April. Green Gratto used the inside post to his benefit that day while Unified conceded the lead from his outside draw. Saturday, Green Gratto is in post 6 and Unified post 7 in the seven-horse field.

Irad Ortiz Jr. is on Green Gratto, while Jose Ortiz rides Unified. Stallwalkin’ Dude drew the rail, and outside of Mind Your Biscuits and inside of Green Gratto, are Fellowship, Tommy Macho, and Awesome Slew.

Matt King Coal looks loose in Suburban

Seymourdini forged a blitzkrieg on the front-end winning Monday’s State Dinner Stakes by 10 1/2 lengths. His trainer, Linda Rice, will likely try the same tactics with Matt King Coal in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park.

Matt King Coal looms the lone speed on paper in a six-horse field entered Tuesday for the Suburban at 1 1/4 miles.

“That’s what I want to be,” Rice said. “He’s really coming to hand. That’s a huge step in competition to go against a Shaman Ghost, but I’d rather do it at a mile and a quarter.”

Matt King Coal, a son of Cool Coal Man, is coming off a 3 3/4-length front-running victory in the Mountainview Stakes at Penn National. Matt King Coal drew post 2 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.

Shaman Ghost, winner of the Santa Handicap and Pimlico Special in his last two starts, drew post 6.

Keen Ice, the 2015 Travers winner, drew the rail. Sunny Ridge (post 3), Watershed (post 4), and Follow Me Crev (post 5) complete the field.

Battalion Runner, Practical Joke in Dwyer

Practical Joke, the fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, and Battalion Runner, the runner-up in the Wood Memorial, return to the races in Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Dwyer Stakes going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.

Last October, Practical Joke won the Grade 1 Champagne going a one-turn mile at Belmont. He is winless in four starts since, but those four races were run around two turns. He is 3 for 3 in one-turn races. Practical Joke drew post 3.

Battalion Runner won a seven-furlong maiden race around one turn at Gulfstream Park before winning a first-level allowance race going two turns at Gulfstream in March. Following a second to Irish War Cry in the Wood Memorial, Battalion Runner was held out of the Kentucky Derby after a subpar workout.

Giuseppe the Great, runner-up in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, True Timber, and Tale of Silence complete the compact field.