Mullins pair head six-strong European challenge
10.46 Belmont Park
Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (Grade 3) 2m | turf | 4yo+ | ATR
The Willie Mullins-trained pair, Wicklow Brave and Clondaw Warrior, head a six-horse European raiding party on the Grade 3 contest with Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire and St Michel, trained by Sir Mark Prescott, providing back-up.
Palmer and Prescott are hopeful of big runs from Wall Of Fire and St Michel with one eye on the future as finishing in the first three would qualify both horses for the Melbourne Cup at Flemington on Tuesday, November 7.
Palmer said: “It’s hard to know too much about the Americans but the favourite is rated 7lb higher than Wall Of Fire and we're getting 8lb, so that’s fine. The horse is in great form, is nicely drawn and has travelled over great so it’s all go.”
The ground is officially described as firm and the trainer added: “My man over there has walked the course and said it’s European good on Thursday morning and I hope it stays like that. But the horse has run well on good to firm, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
“The first three qualify for the Melbourne Cup and that's hopefully Wall Of Fire’s end of season goal, but we haven’t gone out there to play bridesmaid, we've gone out there to try and win.”
Commenting on his two challengers, Mullins: "Both horses travelled over well. They've worked on the track and everything is good with them."
Prescott is hoping the ground stays on the quick side for St Michel and said: “He's travelled over very well and I hope the going stays firm as they are calling it. We've got an outside draw which makes it less easy but we're there now.
“He's perfectly entitled to take his chance on official ratings and, if he is lucky enough to win or go close, the plan would be to give him a little holiday and then head to the Melbourne Cup which is his likely target. But we need to get this right first and there are plenty of ‘ifs’ attached.”
Last year's runner-up Now We Can (Nicolas Clement/Julien Leparoux) and German Group 2 winner Red Cardinal (Andreas Wohler/Eduardo Pedroza) also represent Europe. Taghleeb, who has won over 2m in the past, heads the home team.
Also on Friday
Belmont Park: New York Stakes (Grade 2) 1m2f | turf | 4yo+ f/m (10.14pm BST, live on ATR)
A high-class field for this $500,000 contest which must surely be pushing for an upgrade in the near future. Grade 1-winning stablemates Dacita (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz) and Beverly D heroine Sea Calisi (Florent Geroux), separated by three-quarters of a length in last year's race, clash again in a race also featuring former Hugo Palmer-trained Hawksmoor (Arnaud Delacour/Julien Leparoux). He may struggle to repeat last month's course victory over Dacita over this longer trip on better ground.
Belmont Park: True North Stakes (Grade 2) 6f | dirt | 4yo+ (9.42pm BST, live on ATR)
Whitmore (Ron Moquett/Ricardo Santana), unbeaten since being cut back in trip following last year's Kentucky Derby, bids to complete a six-timer. Although the four-year-old is yet to compete at the top level over a suitable distance, he is unbeaten in one-turn races and his trainer reckons he is the top top dirt sprinter in the country.