Royal raid: Queen's Call To Mind to line up in marathon at Belmont
Preview: USA, Friday 10.56pm BST (live on ATR)
Belmont Park: Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (Grade 2) 2m | turf | 4yo+
The Queen will have a runner in the US on Friday when the William Haggas-trained Call To Mind lines up for the Belmont Gold Cup, in which European-trained horses filled the first four places in 2017.
The fifth running of the $400,000 contest over two miles is one of five stakes races worth $1.65m on the second day of the three-day Belmont Stakes festival. The race is a rarity by modern US standards, representing a throwback to days of yore when such extended distances were a more common feature in North America.
Nowadays, though, two miles is regarded as an absolute marathon, an oddity offering a potentially happy hunting ground for transatlantic visitors, who enjoyed a clean sweep last year when German-trained Red Cardinal led home the Sir Mark Precott-trained St Michel.
Although Call To Mind, who will be partnered by Javier Castellano, won the Listed March Stakes over a mile and three-quarters at Goodwood last year, he has yet to try the full two miles – like the majority of the US team – although the form of his Yorkshire Cup third behind Stradivarius is surely enough to make the son of Galileo a major force in this context and a potentially tricky rails draw is mitigated by the distance
Haggas's assistant Harry Eustace is on the spot at Belmont and said: "We just felt that two miles would be his optimum trip and there wasn't something for him until after Ascot," he said.
"He was beaten by a good horse at York and they've done a good job putting on a race like this for decent money. It seemed like a good fit for him, and two miles should suit him well."
Call To Mind is joined by fellow Newmarket raider Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes/Irad Ortiz), a winner over two miles at Meydan in February, and the French-trained Funny Kid (Christophe Ferland/Maxime Guyon). A winner at Lingfield on all-weather finals day, the five-year-old is on a hat-trick after winning a Group 3 at Longchamp at the end of April, form that puts him among the leading players.
Leading the home defence are Postulation (Edward Graham/Florent Geroux), who won the American St Leger on last year's Arlington Million undercard, and Nessy (Ian Wilkes/Mike Smith), a Grade 3 winner over a mile and three-quarters at Santa Anita on his most recent start. Run Time (Mike Maker/Luis Saez), won over two miles at Gulfstream over the winter.
Also on Friday
Belmont Park: New York Stakes (Grade 2) 1m2f | turf | 4yo+ f/m (10.14pm BST, live on ATR)
Lambourn-based Archie Watson has booked Javier Castellano for Snowy Winter, runner-up in a Listed race at Ayr last month. She faces a stiff task in this $600,000 contest against the likes of Sistercharlie (Chad Brown/John Velazquez), who won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland following a nine-month layoff, and Holy Helena (Jimmy Jerkens/Manny Franco), bidding to complete a four-timer since the turn of the year. She won the Queen's Plate at Woodbine in 2017.
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