Sophomore Turfers Take Centerstage at Belmont Saturday

Mission of Joy | Coady

A pair of Grade I events for 3-year-olds on grass will co-anchor a loaded 12-race program at Belmont Park Saturday.

European invader The Foxes (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}), a narrow winner of the G2 Dante S. May 18 and fifth-place finisher after stumbling at the start in the G1 English Derby June 3, will make the trip across the pond for trainer Andrew Balding for the GI Belmont Derby Invitational. The 7-2 morning-line favorite, drawn widest of all in post 11, will square off against 10 rivals, including GII Pennine Ridge S. one-two-three Kalik (Collected), 'TDN Rising Star' Far Bridge (English Channel) and narrow GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Silver Knott (GB) (Lope de Vega {Ire}); and GII American Turf S. winner Webslinger (Constitution).

“He's a high-class horse,” Balding said. “He won the (G2 Juddmonte) Royal Lodge last year and this year he won our main Derby trial at York. He ran a good race in the Derby, but we felt he didn't get the mile and a half. Obviously, the option to drop back to 10 furlongs was attractive. Hopefully, it's a good fit for him.”

A field of nine will line up in the female counterpart in the GI Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks Invitational. Trainer Graham Motion will saddle 2-1 morning-line favorite and GIII Regret S. June 3 heroine Mission of Joy (Kitten's Joy) and Irish Group 3 winner Speirling Beag (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}), who makes her U.S. debut following a fifth-place finish in the G3 Prix Penelope in France Apr. 1. Trainer Chad Brown will seek his seventh Belmont Oaks trophy via undefeated Hilltop S. May 19 winner Aspray (Quality Road) and GII Wonder Again S. June 11 heroine Prerequisite (Upstart).

'TDN Rising Star' and last year's runaway GIII Dwyer S. winner Charge It (Tapit), meanwhile, headlines a five-horse field in the GII Suburban S. Unbeaten sophomore fillies Maple Leaf Mel (Cross Traffic) and Dazzling Blue (Into Mischief) and GII Eight Belles S. winner Red Carpet Ready (Oscar Performance) will do battle in a fantastic renewal of the GIII Victory Ride S.

Derby Day at the Shoe…

Verifying (Justify), second in both the GI Toyota Blue Grass S. Apr. 8 and GIII Matt Winn S. June 11, will be favored to break through at the graded level in the GIII Indiana Derby at Horseshoe Indianapolis. He dueled through a wicked early pace and paid the price, fading to finish 16th in the GI Kentucky Derby.

“He's doing really well,” trainer Brad Cox said. “I love how he came out of the Matt Winn. It will be back in 27 days, but he's a horse we felt we needed to get a race under his belt. He's run really well, just was narrowly defeated in the Matt Winn and the Blue Grass. His Derby was a throw out with the pace, going too quick too early. But he's a nice horse, he's doing well physically, looks amazing.”

The nine-horse field for the Indiana Derby also includes GIII Gotham S. winner Raise Cain (Violence), grassy Hawthorne Derby winner Act a Fool (Oscar Performance) and the highly regarded Cagliostro (Upstart), a strong second behind the talented Scotland (Good Magic) in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs June 3.

Taxed (Collected), an 11-1 upset winner of the GII George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan S. at Pimlico May 19, looks for her second straight win in the GIII Indiana Oaks. She'll face the Ken McPeek-trained GI Central Bank Ashland S. heroine Defining Purpose (Cross Traffic), purchased privately by Northern Farm since finishing seventh in the GI Kentucky Oaks.

Curlin Filly Headlines Delaware Handicap…

Juddmonte homebred Idiomatic (Curlin), a well-beaten second in the GII Ruffian S. at Belmont May 6 and wire-to-wire winner of the GIII Shawnee S. at Churchill June 3, is the clear cut one to beat in the GII Delaware H. The field of six also includes: Morning Matcha (Central Banker), second in last term's GI Cotillion S. and the local prep Obeah S. last time May 27; and GIII Royal Delta S. heroine Classy Edition (Classic Empire).

Graded Duo Beneath the Lights at Prairie Meadows…

Imonra (Violence) will make her stakes debut in the GIII Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows Saturday evening. The card also includes the GIII Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. for older horses and the $250,000 Iowa Derby.

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