There is no shortage of Graded action to look forward to at Belmont Park this week, with a pair of Grade 3s taking place on Thursday and the Belmont Stakes rounding off the action on Saturday. However, there are also three Grade 2s to look forward to on Friday, as the anticipation ahead of the final Triple Crown of the year reaches a fever pitch. Below, we will rundown the runners in each of the Grade 2s on Friday and try and pinpoint the horses that will win the races.
True North Stakes
The first of the Grade 2s that fans will be able to look forward to at Belmont Park this weekend is the True North Stakes. Horses that are four and older will be able to enter this race, as the field competes for over 6 ½ furlongs. Grade 2 is set to get underway at 4:07 PM ET.
This could be the most eye-catching race of the day on Friday, as there will be an enthralling battle between Firenze Fire and Flagstaff. The two will be right at the top of the betting, as they both look to continue their Graded winning streak.
Flagstaff has won his last two at Graded company, which includes a first Grade 1 victory in the Churchill Downs Stakes last time out. The distance and conditions will certainly suit. However, Firenze Fire has the experience at Belmont Park, as he won the True North Stakes 12 months ago and will be looking to become the first-ever two-time winner. He warmed up for his shot at history by winning the Grade 3 Runhappy.
It would be hard to look elsewhere in the field for this race. However, challenges for place positions could be made by Wicked Trick and Phat Man. The latter finished fifth in the Churchill Downs Stakes. Meanwhile, Wicked Trick was an eye-catching second in the Grade 3 Westchester.
New York Stakes
One of the biggest fields of the day will come in the New York Stakes. This Grade 2 contest is run over 1 ¼ miles, and fillies and mares aged four and older can enter. At present, there is a field of 12 entered for the race, but that could be drastically cut before we get underway on Friday.
It is a tricky race to call, as there are a number of Graded winners set to be involved. Magic Attitude won the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, while Harvey’s Lil Goil won the Grade 3 Beaugay. Mean Mary won the Grade 3 Gallorette and should also not be discounted.
Micheline is the only horse in the field taking a step back in class, as she was most recently sixth in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley. Mutamakina is also another progressive horse, as she followed up her win in the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap by finishing second in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay. The five-year-old could be set for another big run this weekend.
Belmont Gold Cup Stakes
The tenth race on the card at Belmont Park on Friday will be the Belmont Gold Cup, which is run over two miles on the turf. Horses that are four and older can enter, and there is an international feel to the race this year.
Joseph O’Brien is sending a runner from Britain for the prestigious race, and he has obvious claims. Baron Samedi has won his last six, including the Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris at Longchamp back in October. He returned to the track with an emphatic win at Navan. The one question will revolve around whether he can last for the two miles.
Ajourneytofreedom could also have strong claims, as he finished fourth in the Grade 3 Louisville over 1 ½ miles last time out. Ziyad has placed in two of his last three runs at Graded company but faded quickly in the Man O’ War Stakes at the beginning of May.
Conviction Trade has run over two miles previously, as he finished second in the H. Allen Jerkens. However, he has come up short in his last two runs at Graded company. If Baron Samedi settles well on his first American start, he could be difficult to oppose.