Five Grade 1s provide high-grade undercard as Justify bids for greatness
Preview: USA, Saturday 10.40pm BST (live on ATR)
Belmont Park: Manhattan Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f | turf | 4yo+
Justify's attempt to complete the Triple Crown may provide the focus but it is by no means the only thing worth watching as Belmont hosts a spectacular Saturday card featuring a total of nine Graded races –six of them carrying top-level status.
With $7.45 million in prize-money on offer across 13 races, Belmont Stakes day has been transformed in recent years to become probably the premier day's racing on the US calendar outside the Breeders' Cup.
What is missing, though, is significant European interest, with lightly raced Alexios Komnenos (Fozzy Stack/Florent Geroux) the only transatlantic visitor on the entire card in the $1m Manhattan.
Last seen down the field on his seasonal debut in the Lockinge, the Irish raider's career was interrupted last term when he suffered a severe hind-leg infection. Narrowly beaten by subsequent dual Guineas winner Churchill as a two-year-old, he came back to win a Group 3 at Leopardstown.
Named after a Byzantine emperor, Alexios Komnenos faces a double-figure field featuring a clutch of North America's top turf horses, headed by Breeders' Cup Turf runner-up Beach Patrol (Chad Brown/Joel Rosario), whose trainer is bidding to win this for the fifth time in seven years.
The five-year-old was second to Royal Ascot contender Yoshida on his seasonal debut last month; champion trainer Brown also saddles off-the-pace runner Robert Bruce (Tyler Gaffalione), a four-time Grade 1 winner in Chile.
Argentine Triple Crown winner Hi Happy (Todd Pletcher/Luis Saez) is bidding for a hat-trick this term after breaking his US Grade 1 duck in the Man o'War, where Sadler's Joy (Tom Albertrani/Javier Castellano) was only half a length away in second.
Also on Saturday
Belmont Park: Ogden Phipps Stakes (Grade 1) 1m½f | dirt | 4yo+ f/m (5.47pm BST, live on ATR)
The Justify team gets down to business in the first of six Grade 1s as last year's Kentucky Oaks heroine Abel Tasman (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith) bids to regain the winning thread in this $750,000 contest.
She won the Acorn on last year's card and was said to need the run on her seasonal debut when a lacklustre fourth behind Salty at Churchill Downs.
However, she will need her A-game giving weight to some good fillies and mares including American Gal (Simon Callaghan/Jose Ortiz) and Ivy Bell (Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano), who are up in trip after going one-two in the 7f Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby day.
That said, both those fillies were cross-entered on Friday's card.
Belmont Park: Acorn Stakes (Grade 1) 1m | dirt | 3yo fillies (6.24pm BST, live on ATR)
After establishing her credentials to lead the division by getting the better of a terrific stretch duel in the Kentucky Oaks, Monomoy Girl (Brad Cox/FlorentGeroux) faces an ultra-strong field here as she cuts back to what her trainer believes is her optimum trip. Her career record stands at six from seven – and the sole defeat was only by a neck as a two-year-old.
Rivals are headed by Caledonia Road (Ralph Nicks/Mike Smith), on her second start after a layoff for bone-chip surgery following her victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where dual Grade 1 scorer Moonshine Memories (Simon Callaghan/Flavien Prat) was only seventh as favourite.
Belmont Park: Just A Game Stakes (Grade 1) 1m | turf | 4yo+ f/m (9.02pm BST, live on ATR)
Chad Brown, who has a virtual monopoly in these sorts of races on the east coast, saddles ex-German-trained A Raving Beauty (Irad Ortiz), a comfortable three-length winner in Grade 3 company on last month's US debut.
Stablemate Off Limits (Javier Castellano) joins her in a race also featuring Proctor's Ledge (Brendan Walsh/John Velazquez) and On Leave (Shug McGaughey/Manny Franco), one-two in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile last time out.
Belmont Park: Metropolitan Handicap (Grade 1) 1m | dirt | 3yo+ (9.45pm BST, live on ATR)
After his repeat come-from-behind success in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, Mind Your Biscuits (Chad Summers/Joel Rosario) steps back up in trip for the $1.25m event better known as the Met Mile.
"A horse's five-year-old year is supposed to be the best year of a horse's life – that's when they're at their peak," said Summers.
"Everything he shows us is that he's at his peak. I think this year he's bigger, faster, and stronger, as you're supposed to be. Everyone's going to be coming here for Justify, but we plan on putting on a show."
He breaks from the rail in a loaded field featuring high-profile types from last year's Classic crop in McCraken (Ian Wilkes/Brian Hernandez) and Good Samaritan (Bill Mott/Jose Ortiz) – plus a leading member of this year's three-year-old crop in Bolt D'Oro (Mick Ruis/Florent Geroux), last seen in Justify's Kentucky Derby.
He gets 8lb from Mind Your Biscuits in this unusually early clash of the generations. Bee Jersey (Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana) is up in class after a sharp win in Texas.
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