Belmont Park Preview
September 6, 2012
By Mike Dempsey
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Racing at Saratoga concluded on Monday, and after a four day hiatus the betting action returns at Belmont Park on Saturday for the start of their 37-day fall championship meeting.
There are 21 graded stakes to be run, many of which will have Breeders' Cup implications. This year's Breeders' Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 2-3.
The marquee event of the fall meeting is on Sept. 28, which will feature six graded stakes, all of which are part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series.
The winners of each of the Challenge races will earn an automatic starting berth in the corresponding Breeders' Cup race along with entry fees and a stipend for shipping costs.
The marquee event of Super Saturday is the $1 million TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (G1), which is a key final prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
Also on the Super Saturday card is the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) for older males on the grass, the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational (G1) for fillies and mares on the turf, the $400,000 Beldame Invitational (G1) for fillies and mares on dirt, the $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational (G1) for sprinters, and the$400,000 Kelso Handicap (G2) at a mile on the main track.
There are three more Grade 1 races on Saturday Oct. 6 that will produce major contenders for the Breeders' Cup.
The juveniles will take center stage in the $400,000 Foxwoods Champagne (G1), and the juvenile fillies will go in the $400,000 Frizette (G1).
Supporting the two-year-old races on the card is the $400,000 Jamaica (G1) for three-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on turf, a race that may produce contenders for both the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) and Turf (G1).
Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Ramon Dominguez dominated the action at the recently concluded Saratoga meeting and are the front runners to claim the top spots in the standings at the fall Belmont Park meeting.
Pletcher got off to a slow start at the meet this summer, but finished with a flourish, with 23 of his wins coming with juveniles.
He won 36 races from his 149 starters to win the training title for the third consecutive year, and the ninth time in his career.
He fared well in graded stakes, winning with Love and Pride in the Personal Ensign Invitational Handicap (G1), Turbulent Descent in the Ballerina (G1), Dominus in the Bernard Baruch (G2), Kauai Katie in the Grade 2 Adirondack (G2), and capped off the meeting on closing day by winning the Hopeful (G2) with Shanghai Bobby.
Pletcher won a record 38 races in 2011 at the Spa from his 149 starters.
Dominguez dominated the jockey colony with an all-time record of 66 wins from his 288 mounts.
Dominguez topped the previous mark of 64 winners booted home by John Velazquez in 2004. The meeting was 36 days that year.
Last fall at Belmont Park trainer David Jacobson was the top trainer with 15 winners from his 53 starters, edging Rudy Rodriguez by two.
Pletcher was tied for fourth in the trainer's standings in wins with eleven, and led in earnings with $797,852.
Jockey Javier Castellano had an outstanding fall meeting at Belmont Park last year, topping the jockey standings with 42 wins from his 211 mounts.
Dominguez was second with 40 winners from 179 mounts. The jockey was first in purses with $2,274,694, edging Castellano who had mounts that earned $2,162,326.
A few of the trainers that are coming into the Belmont Park meeting off subpar numbers at Saratoga include such high profile trainers as Mike Maker (5 for 54), Bruce Brown (5 for 61), Ken McPeek (4 for 48), Nike Zito (2 for 55), Graham Motion (2 for 40), and D. Wayne Lukas (2 for 43).
Among the trainers who were shut at the Saratoga meeting were Barclay Tagg (0 for 24), William Badgett, Jr. (0 for 27), and Randi Persaud (0 for 21).
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