From County Cork to New York, New York for Weld's Zhukova
10.13pm Belmont Park
Man o' War Stakes (Grade 1) 1m3f | turf | 4yo+ | ATR
Renowned globetrotting trainer Dermot Weld returns to one of his happiest stamping grounds when he holds good chances of landing the prestigious Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday night with Zhukova.
Top local rider John Velazquez has been engaged for the mare at the New York venue where Weld famously became the only European trainer ever to win a leg of the US Triple Crown with Go And Go in 1990.
Weld also took the Grade 1 Flower Bowl with Dimitrova at Belmont 14 years ago, while European visitors have done well in the Man o' War in the last decade, with Cape Blanco, Red Rocks and Doctor Dino all triumphing.
A Group 3 winner last term, Zhukova also has the benefit of a recent outing – a Listed win at Cork – while the prospect of heavy rain should not worry a filly with plenty of wet-track form in the book. Indeed, such is her form chance that she comes out well clear on Racing Post Ratings for the $400,000 contest, where she might even benefit from an easy lead as the field is full of late runners.
Zhukova is rated a 5-1 shot on the Belmont indicative morning line but any such price looks a fantasy; Ladbrokes make her 2-1 favourite against a field of US turf performers featuring the last two winners, Wake Forest (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano) and Twilight Eclipse (Graham Motion/Edgar Prado).
Wake Forest arrives in good heart, having employed his usual late kick to thwart the progressive Patterson Cross (Bill Mott/Jose Lezcano) on his seasonal debut at Gulfstream.
Best of the home team, though, may prove to be Sadler's Joy (Tom Albertrani/Julien Leparoux), only a head away from going unbeaten in his last five. He beat three of these rivals last time out in Grade 2 company at Gulfstream.
Also on Saturday
Belmont Park: Peter Pan Stakes (Grade 3) 1m1f | dirt | 3yo (8.04pm BST, live on ATR)
Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, both in stellar form since Belmont opened, go head-to-head in this designated trial for the Belmont Stakes in four weeks' time.
Brown saddles likely favourite Timeline (Javier Castellano), stepping up in grade after a 13-length romp in the slop at Aqueduct, while Pletcher fields UAE Derby third Master Plan (John Velazquez), marooned on the also-eligible list for last weekend's Kentucky Derby.
Belmont Park: Beaugay Stakes (Grade 3) 1m½f | turf | 4yo+ f/m (9.09pm BST, live on ATR)
An intended Royal Ascot prep for three-time Grade 1 winner Miss Temple City (Graham Motion/Edgar Prado) was scuppered by the soft ground last weekend at Churchill Downs. It may be the same story here – but even without her, the race would feature a pair of Grade 1 winners in Dacita (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz) and Time And Motion (Jimmy Toner/John Velazquez) – plus former Hugo Palmer-trained Hawksmoor (Arnaud Delacour/Julien Leparoux).