Big days in racing with multiple stakes carded tend to be branded with names like “Super Saturday” or “Preview Day” or a variation thereof. This Saturday at Belmont Park a strong series of four graded events are on tap and, while not officially branded, it’s safe to say that each race could serve as a prep for the Belmont Stakes Day undercard. So, for unofficial purposes, let’s call Saturday “Belmont Stakes Day Undercard Preview Day.”
The weather forecast for New York on Friday calls for mostly cloudy skies and a strong chance for afternoon showers, which is likely to follow a full day of rain on Friday. So it’s a good bet to expect an off main track and a softer turf course.
The first of the four graded stakes is the $250,000 Ruffian Stakes (GII), a one-mile main track test for distaffers which has been carded as the seventh of the day and is a prep for the June 11 Ogden Phipps Handicap (GI). While the best of the older filly and mare division is likely located out west with the likes of Beholder, Stellar Wind and Taris, just to name a few, this field is packed with talented ladies looking to make a statement and step into the New York spotlight.
Last year, Stonestreet Stable’s Cavorting was at the top of the filly and mare sprint division, winning three stakes — two graded — heading into the Breeders’ Cup, where she faltered as the near 7-2 favorite in the Filly and Mare Sprint (GI), finishing fourth. And in two starts since, she’s struggled as the favorite, first to finish third in the La Brea Stakes (GI) at Santa Anita in December and then, after a nice winter freshening, finishing second in the Distaff Handicap (GIII) at Aqueduct last month. It’s safe to say she probably needed that race and could be returning to form, even if this one-mile distance isn’t her preference, judging by her two off-the-board performances. Still, she’s in capable hands with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and jockey Javier Castellano. Her innermost post position isn’t ideal, but since she doesn’t need the lead she should be OK to get good position after the break.
Carrumba will likely be the post-time favorite and legitimately so off of a record of four wins and three seconds from seven career starts. And as far as pedigrees go, they don’t get much better than hers. She’s a daughter of top sire Bernardini and the El Prado mare Castanet, who is a daughter of the mare Dancinginmydreams, who recovered from a catastrophic injury and surgery to repair her hind leg broken in more than 50 pieces to become a Grade I producer.
In fact, Carrumba is from one of the more prominent Phipps female families, which includes Oh What a Dance, Heavenly Prize, Oh What a Windfall, Furlough, Fantastic Find and many, many more. She’s two-for-two on off tracks and while she likely prefers more distance, is also two-for-two at a mile. She drew the outside, but it’s only a six-runner field, so should have no trouble tucking in behind the speed to stalk until she’s ready to make her move. The Shug McGaughey-trained 4-year-old will also have top jockey Jose Ortiz aboard, making her even tougher to bet against.
Grade I winner Include Betty is the definition of an up-and-down runner. One race, she’s running her eyeballs out and winning. The next, she’s flat and seems disinterested with very few performances in between. She’s certainly well-traveled, having raced at nine different tracks in her 15-race career. And she’s won at many route distances, including twice in two starts at a mile. Jose Lezcano takes over the reins for trainer Tom Proctor and if the daughter of Include runs her best, she’s a legit threat to at the very least hit the board if not pick up a larger share of the purse.
Spring Again is 4-2-0-2 at the one-mile distance, including last year’s Chilukki Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs. The former claimer, who has exchanged ownership via the claim box three times, has talent, but may be in tough in here looking for a win.
The Kelly Breen-trained Calamity Kate is making her first start of the year in a very ambitious spot, but she’s been training well and picks up the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Welcome Aboard hasn’t won in almost a year and it’s hard to see how she can do so in here.
Post time has been set for 4:41 p.m. ET.