Belmont Undercard Races Feature Top-Level Racing Action
Even in years like this one in which the Belmont Stakes doesn't set up as an all-timer, the day still typically delivers as one of the best racing days on the calendar. The Belmont undercard is absolutely loaded with top races. Aside from the Belmont itself, the card offers seven other Grade 1 races, a Grade 2, and another often-interesting listed stakes. It's an embarrassment of top-level horse flesh, and it often makes for a very interesting and bettable day of racing. Now that the fields are set, here's a look at the highlights of the undercard. Four races stand out above the rest in terms of interest.
The Met Mile is always a significant race, but this year it is a real gem - by far the class of this card. The field is just loaded. The top earner, with more than $16 million won, is two-time Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow (5/1). This is a bit of a surprising spot for him because his last seven starts have been at a mile and 3/16 or more. But the last time he ran at a mile he won, beating Bee Jersey, who won this race last year. He's competitive but far from alone in that. Bob Baffert's McKinzie (5/2) has two seconds and two wins in his last four outings since a rough race in the Breeders' Cup Classic and has shown his best around this mile distance. He's a top contender. Coal Front (6/1) won the Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup undercard and has speed to burn. Prince Lucky (12/1) has multiple graded stakes wins and, like Coal Front, is looking for his first Grade 1. Promises Fulfilled (12/1) and Pavel (20/1) are both talented, accomplished horses, but neither has won since last summer, and this is a tough spot to rediscover lost form. And let's not forget Mitole (3/1), a very impressive winner on the Derby undercard this year. Or Firenze Fire (4/1), who has been at his best on this surface with three wins here. You could throw a dart at this field and land on a good horse with at least a chance. What a race!
Woody Stephens Stakes
This is a seven-furlong sprint for three-year-olds. A field of 11 is set, with four that are the most interesting. Favored Mind Control, a stablemate of Belmont entrant Joevia, won the Hopeful at Saratoga last year to serve notice, but he has struggled since. He was not at his best on the Derby trail and was aimed for sprints instead. Complexity, the second choice, has strong connections with Jose Ortiz training for Chad Brown. He beat Derby entrant Code of Honor badly in the Champagne here at Belmont last fall but then finished 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and hasn't been seen since. He has been working very well, though, and has me intrigued. Much Better is a son of Pioneerof the Nile, like Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, but he has struggled to find his best foot on the track as of yet. He's trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, the duo who won the Belmont last year, though, so he will likely draw more than his share of the action. And Honest Mischief, another Chad Brown colt, is a raw colt, but he won a maiden race by eight very impressive lengths back in April. There is upside here.
This six-furlong turf sprint is all about World of Trouble, the even-money favorite. After finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last fall, he has been on a tear, winning four straight, including the Grade 1 Carter on dirt followed by the Grade 2 Twin Spires, a 5.5-furlong sprint on Turf. He's an absolute beast. And if he can add a Grade 1 on the grass to the one earned on the dirt, he'd be a very valuable stallion. His biggest threat comes from Disco Partner (3/1), who has won this race each of the last two years.
This is a showdown for three-year-old fillies. The highlight here is Serengeti Empress, the winner of the Kentucky Oaks, the main event the day before the Derby. She has two graded stakes wins this year, but faltered in the middle race, so her consistency is tough to love. She's at 5/2 here, which makes her the second choice behind Guarana at 2/1. That's an ambitious price for this filly with just one career start - a win. But the Jose Ortiz-Chad Brown partnership always draws action in New York, and that win came by a stunning 15 lengths in a maiden race at Keeneland. She's very nicely bred, and it appears that the talent is bottomless. But can she overcome a massive lack of experience here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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