Belmont Turf Takes Center Stage Saturday

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Tiz the Bomb wins the GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks S. Coady Photography

by Stefanie Grimm & Patrycja Szpyra

With the Fourth of July holiday weekend in the rear-view mirror, the summer turf season kicks into high gear starting with a pair of Grade I's at Belmont Park Saturday. The home team takes on a new wave of European challengers in the 1 1/4-mile GI Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational S., the first leg of the Caesars Turf Triple Series.

Tiz the Bomb (Hit It a Bomb), last seen finishing ninth behind longshot GI Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (Keen Ice), finally gets back to the surface that he's shown plenty of success on previously. Tiz the Bomb scored back-to-back victories on the grass in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile S. Sept. 6 and Keeneland's GII Castle & Key Bourbon S. Oct. 10. He ended his 2-year-old campaign with just a half-length defeat to Modern Games (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar Nov. 5, his most recent try on grass.

After an unsuccessful 3-year-old debut in the GIII Holy Bull S., Tiz the Bomb returned to form with two wins on the all-weather surface at Turfway Park, taking both the John Battaglia Memorial S. Mar. 5 and GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks S. Apr. 2. He defeated eventual Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (Keen Ice) in the latter.

“We gave him a Kentucky Derby chance,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “He ran respectable, but he's certainly not as good on the dirt as he is on the grass.”

McPeek will also saddle Kentucky Derby 11th Classic Causeway (Giant's Causeway), who will be making his first start on the turf. The GIII Sam F. Davis S. and the GII Tampa Bay Derby winner, previously trained by Brian Lynch, was third in Thistledown's GIII Ohio Derby June 25.

Topping the European contenders is Godolphin homebred Nations Pride (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), who, barring his poor effort most recently in the G1 Cazoo Derby at Epsom June 4, previously won four straight, including a seven-length win in the Newmarket S. Apr. 29 over the same 1 1/4-mile distance he'll try Saturday.

Stone Age (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), drawn wide in post 13, also exits a disappointing showing like his aforementioned rival in the Cazoo Derby. Prior to that, he showed good form in taking the G3 Derby Trial S. at Leopardstown May 8 and also when finishing second in the 2021 G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

Also on tap over Belmont's turf course Saturday is the 1 1/4- mile GI Belmont Oaks Invitational S., which features a similar combination of American and European-bred contenders. Chad Brown brings a trio of options starting with 'TDN Rising Star' Haughty (Empire Maker), who ended her juvenile season with only a three-quarter length defeat to Pizza Bianca (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Nov. 5 at Del Mar.

McKulick (GB) (Frankel {GB}) enters for Brown off a second- place finish in the 1 1/8-mile GIII Regret S. at Churchill Downs June 4. She was also second behind fellow Oaks rival New Year's Eve (Kitten's Joy) in the GII Edgewood S. May 6.

Rounding out Brown's entries is Consumer Spending (More Than Ready), who enters having won four of her last five starts. While no match for Pizza Bianca in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, she began her 3-year-old season with back-to-back wins. She turned the tables on Pizza Bianca in Aqueduct's Memories of Silver S. Apr. 24, then added the GII Wonder Again S. at Belmont June 9.

Hailing from the barn of Aidan O'Brien, Concert Hall (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) is listed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite. The 2021 G3 Weld Park S. winner was stretched out in distance as a 3-year-old. Her form this season includes a third-place finish in the G1 Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas May 22, a fourth-place finish in the G1 Cazoo Oaks June 3, and a fifth-place finish in the G1 Pretty Polly S. at Curragh June 26.

Five Line Up for Suburban

The Belmont dirt will showcase older horses going 1 1/4 miles in the GII Suburban S. Shug McGaughey brings in 'TDN Rising Star' First Captain (Curlin), who enters off a career-best performance in the GIII Pimlico Special S. May 20. Dynamic One (Union Rags) is listed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the field of five. After getting seven months off following his seventh-place effort in the GI Travers S. Aug. 28, he returned as a 4-year-old with increasingly positive results. He checked in third off the layoff in the GIII Challenger S. at Tampa Mar. 12, was second in the GIII Ben Ali S. Apr. 23, and most recently won the Blame S. June 4 at Churchill. The field also includes defending Suburban champion Max Player (Honor Code).

The Belmont card also includes the GIII Victory Ride S. for 3-year-old fillies. Marylou Whitney Stables's Pretty Birdie (Bird Song) was second in her last two, completing the exacta behind Matareya (Pioneerof the Nile) in the GII Eight Belles S. May 6 and Wicked Halo (Gun Runner) in the Leslie's Lady Overnight S. June 12. The field also includes Happy Soul (Runhappy), second last time in Pimlico's GIII Miss Preakness S. May 20.

Smaller Circuit Graded Stakes Attract Big Names

Horseshoe Indianapolis–formerly Indiana Grand–may've changed its name, but the industry's heavy hitters came with their runners just the same for the GIII Indiana Derby and GIII Indiana Oaks, scheduled to go as the last two races on the card.

In the nightcap contest for the colts, 75-1 longshot GII Rebel S. conqueror Un Ojo (Laoban) returns off a three-month layoff in his first attempt for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Conditioner Kenny McPeek's GISW Rattle N Roll (Connect) is cross-entered here and in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows after ending his five-race losing streak last weekend in the July 2 American Derby at Churchill Downs. Texas Derby winner King Ottoman (Curlin), trained by Steve Asmussen, and the Brad Cox-trained Best Actor (Flatter)–a $330,000 KEESEP purchase for Gary and Mary West–round a talented, if lightly raced, field.

The Indiana Oaks is shaping up to be a battle of the trainers as McPeek and Cox send out a pair each. Juddmonte homebred Patna (Into Mischief) and GI Ashland S. third Interstatedaydream (Classic Empire) will fly the flag of the latter. Nine-length maiden winner Silverleaf (Speightster) and the rapidly improving Runaway Wife (Gun Runner) will look to cap a potentially big day for McPeek.

Shifting to Prairie Meadows for the evening, the GIII Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. attracted the evergreen gelding Rated R Superstar (Kodiak Kowboy), looking to rebound from a pair of disappointing efforts, including in Lone Star's May 30 GIII Steve Sexton Mile S. That race was won by the horse to his inside, the re-opposing Silver Prospector (Declaration of War). Warrant (Constitution), second last out in the GII Brooklyn H. June 11 and second Mar. 5 in the GI Santa Anita H., aims to secure his first win of the season.

A field of eight fillies will do battle for the GIII Iowa Oaks crown, led by the Todd Pletcher-trained Falconet (Uncle Mo) and local Panther S. victress Butterbean (Klimt). Candy Raid (Candy Ride {Arg}), a surprise winner of the Apr. 2 Bourbonette Oaks, is cross-entered in the Indiana Oaks.

Marathon Runners Chime In From Delaware

A big weekend of racing will also be rolling at Delaware Park as a field of 10 lines up to contest the grassy GIII Robert G. Dick Memorial S., featuring over half of the Keertana S. field, including first and second-place finishers Temple City Terror (Temple City) and Stand Tall (Uncle Mo).

The main track filly and mare marathoners will also have their day in the (most likely not present) Delaware sun in the GII Delaware Handicap, with the streaking Serena's Song S. and Obeah S. heroine Miss Leslie (Paynter) leading the charge.

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