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Old sparring partners Smith and Baffert dominate undercard

Mike Smith: big ride in Dubai World Cup - plus a ban after a controversial Kentucky Derby trial at the weekend
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Report: USA, Saturday

Belmont Park: Metropolitan Hcap (Grade 1) 1m | dirt | 3yo+

Veteran jockey Mike Smith and his longtime sparring partner Bob Baffert dominated the blockbuster Belmont Stakes undercard with a slew of high-profile victories.

 Two years after he saddled American Pharoah to become America's 12th Triple Crown winner with his victory in the Belmont Stakes, Baffert had four winners on what is generally regarded as the best card on the US calendar outside the Breeders' Cup.

Smith, 51, rode all of them, including a pair of Grade 1s on Abel Tasman and Mor Spirit – and he also partnered dual champion filly Songbird to a triumphant return in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. Clearly the don't call him 'Big Money Mike' for nothing.

Mor Spirit's crushing victory in the Metropolitan Handicap, the $1.2m event better known as the Met Mile, provided the outstanding performance of the Baffert four-timer as the immediately recognisable Californian-based pair extended their dominion to the east.

After pressing Sharp Azteca until after halfway, Mor Spirit took command before the quarter pole and bounded away to win by more than six lengths in a time of 1m33.71s.

The four-year-old son of Eskendereya, who was completing a hat-trick this season, was returned slightly better than a 5-2 shot.

"American Pharoah, I'll never top that day but this day is pretty huge," Baffert said. "It's pretty big for us, mainly for those horses. This is on a day people are thinking about championships and you want your horses to run well.

"They were the favourites but the odds were against us; how can you win them all? It's incredible and you just don't know until the gates open. Mike Smith was huge and this is Mike Smith's home."

Smith spent much of his career in New York before switching to the west coast. "Oh, man it's just like the good old days, back in New York, and getting the opportunity to ride some great horses today for Bob and Jerry," he said.

"I'm very blessed to ride for guys like Bob," he added. "I'm not riding a lot right other than today but we're riding some super horses and these kind of horses, you use your head a little bit and you point them in the right direction and they get it done."

Full result

Also on Saturday

Belmont Park: Ogden Phipps Stakes (Grade 1) 1m½f | dirt | 4yo+ f/m

Superstar filly Songbird (Jerry Hollendorfer/Mike Smith) made no mistake as she kicked off her four-year-old campaign with a solid performance to record the eighth Grade 1 success of a brilliant career.

Having forfeited her unbeaten record by a nose to the estimable Beholder in an epic race for last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, Songbird's reappearance had been delayed by a minor leg injury before she crossed the country from her California base for this $750,000 contest, for which she was made 7-20 favourite.

The daughter of Medaglia D'Oro broke well and led but was pressed throughout by the persistent Paid Up Subscriber (received 6lb), who poked her head in front on the far turn. Smith looked to have matters under control, however, and Songbird duly regained the advantage in the stretch, where she needed only to be pushed out to score by a cosy length to take her career record to 12 wins from 13 starts.

"Let's call this a great race off the layoff," said winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. "A good horse takes to all the tracks, it seems like, and she's a good one. I'm not sure she's at the top of her game right now, but she did very well today. We're blessed to have her. "

Full result

Belmont Park: Acorn Stakes (Grade 1) 1m | dirt | 3yo fillies

Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith) – the filly whose owners China Horse Club removed her from former trainer Simon Callaghan after a silks mix-up earlier this year – produced a carbon copy of her Churchill Downs performance as she went from last to first.

She surged through a hole on the rail as they entered the stretch before holding market rival Salty by a length.

"With this filly here, she's just getting really good and she showed that the Oaks was not a fluke," said Baffert. "She's that good a horse – she's just getting better and better."

Abel Tasman and Salty were made joint-favourites at a shade better than 2-1; the final time was 1m35.37s. Next up for the winner is the Alabama at Saratoga.

>> Smith and Baffert also teamed up to win the $150,000 Easy Goer with West Coast and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens with American Anthem.

Full result

Belmont Park: Just A Game Stakes (Grade 1) 1m | turf | 4yo+ f/m

US champion trainer Chad Brown has yet another potential turf star on his hands after the ex-French Group 3 winner Antonoe rallied strongly up the inner to claim top-level success on only her second US start.

Formerly trained by Pascal Bary, the Juddmonte four-year-old was getting 10lb from her most fancied rivals as she stepped straight into Grade 1 company after winning an allowance event at Keeneland in April.

Last in a field of seven until the far turn, she delivered a tremendous finish under Javier Castellano along the rail to beat front-running Sassy Little Lila by three-quarters of a length. "I don't think that I've ever had a horse in my training career come home that fast on turf, at any distance, at any level," said Brown.

Full result

Belmont Park: Manhattan Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f | turf | 4yo+

Former Roger Charlton-trained Time Test had to settle for second place again as 28-1 longshot Ascend (Graham Motion/Jose Ortiz) landed a shock victory on his Graded-stakes debut. There seemed no fluke about it, however, as the five-year-old finished powerfully to score by a length and a quarter from the favourite, who had also been touched off on last month's debut for Chad Brown.

Full result

Belmont Park: Jaipur Invitational (Grade 3) 6f | turf | 4yo+

Five-year-old Disco Partner (Christophe Clement/Irad Ortiz) set a new North American record for the distance when stopping the clock at 1m05.67s after surging from the rear for a half-length victory.

Let's call this a great race off the layoff - I'm not sure she's at the top of her game right now, but she did very well today
E.W. Terms