The first Saturday of Belmont Park’s fall meet is highlighted by the inaugural $1 million Jockey Club Derby, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge: Win and You’re In Series race, with the winner gaining an automatic berth into the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at the 36th Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., the first weekend of November.
The Jockey Club Derby, which is also the third leg of Belmont’s “Turf Trinity” for 3-year-olds is over 1 ½ miles on the turf and is scheduled as Race 10 of an exciting 11-race card with a post time of 5:47 p.m. ET.
The nine-horse field is led by the first two winners of the Turf Trinity: Henley’s Joy, trained by Mike Maker and winner of the G1 Belmont Derby on July 6 and the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained A Thread of Blue, who triumphed in the Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 4.
#1, A Thread of Blue, 4-1, Luis Saez
A Thread of Blue, ridden by Luis Saez, broke sharply his last time out in the Saratoga Derby, set the pace, secured a comfortable lead in the stretch and held off a charging Digital Age (IRE), another entrant in today’s race, to win by a length and claim the $1 million top prize in 1:52.02. A winner in three of his five starts this year, I like the ML odds and hope it stays around the number to bring home his second straight $1 million prize and a spot in the Breeders’ Cup. The pick.
#8, Digital Age (IRE), 5-2, Javier Castellano
Right behind A Thread of Blue is the runner-up to him last time out, Digital Age (IRE), the ML favorite at 5-2. Also a winner three times in his last five for three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Digital Age, the 5-2 favorite morning-line favorite in the Jockey Club Derby, took home the G2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day, charging from off the pace to catch A Thread of Blue. Ridden by the always reliable Javier Castellano, can he come off the pace again to win? He will be there at the end, but comes up short. Runner-up.
#3, Henley’s Joy, 5-1, Jose Lezcano
Henley's Joy captured the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby by three-quarters of a length at longshot odds of 20-1 for his first victory of the year. However, the chestnut son of Kitten’s Joy, had to swing very wide into the stretch in the Saratoga Derby and was beaten by 4 ½ lengths for a sub-par fifth-place finish. In 12 career starts, the Mike Maker-trained Henley’s Joy is 4-3-0 and has the sneaky and talented Jose Lezcano aboard. There is a lot to like, especially at 5-1 ML odds, but can he recapture the magic he displayed in early July? In the mix.
#6, Tone Broke, 10-1, John Velazquez
Four straight top-3 finishes, including back-to-back turf wins in the last two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown: Breeders Stakes’ at Woodbine Aug. 17 and the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie on July 23, the Steve Asmussen-trained Tone Broke makes the journey down from Canada with the great John Velazquez aboard. His last race was at 1 ½ miles and I like the fact he is coming into this race with a win at that distance. Just outside the top 3.
Other runners include: #2, Current, 15-1, Junior Alvarado; #4, Pedro Cara (FR), 12-1, Tony Piccone; #5, San Huberto (IRE), Flavien Prat; #7, Kadar, 15-1, Manuel Franco; #9, Spanish Mission, 3-1, Jamie Spencer.
The picks: 1-8-3-6.
By Lou Monaco
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