Reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will look for his third win in four years in the Grade 1, $ 1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational when he saddles four entries in the 12-horse field at Belmont Park.
The Belmont Oaks is contested at 1 ¼ miles and is one of five graded stakes races on Saturday’s Stars & Stripes Racing Festival.
Peter Brant’s Sistercharlie will make her U.S. debut off a second-place finish in the Group 1 Prix de Diane, known as the French Oaks. The Irish-bred daughter of Myboycharlie closed fast down the stretch in the field of 16, losing by a length.
Sistercharlie has three wins in five races, including the Group 3 Prix Penelope at Saint-Cloud at 1 5/16 miles. Brown, who took over training duties following her private purchase, said Sistercharlie shipped into Belmont on Saturday. She will break from the outside post with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons.
Brown’s other starters include two top U.S.-based turf fillies, e Five Racing’s New Money Honey and Peter Brant’s second entry Fifty Five. Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf champion New Money Honey’s lead wire to wire in the Grade 3 Wonder Again on June 8, a 1 ⅛ race over Belmont Park’s inner turf, with Fifty Five finishing second two lengths behind. Both horses will be trying 1 ¼ miles for the first time. Brown said he was confident the two can handle the distance.
New Money Honey will be ridden by Javier Castellano and will break from post 8. Grade 3 Florida Oaks winner Fifty Five will be ridden by Jose Ortiz and will break from post 10.
Brown also saddles Michael Dubb’s U.K.-bred Uni, making her first start in the U.S. The chestnut filly has been training in New York since being transferred to Brown’s barn in May. Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the mount and will break from post 7.
Also making her U.S. debut is trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Key to My Heart. The Galileo filly shipped into Belmont Tuesday morning, less than a week after winning her first stakes race in the 1 ¼ mile Irish Oaks Trial on June 28 with O’Brien’s son Donnacha onboard.
“She only won last week. Now she’s in this. She’s very impressive,” said O’Brien’s assistant T.J. Comerford. “She always looked like a winner as well. We had another favorite in the race, and this one went well.”
Jockey Wayne Lordan gets the mount on Saturday, breaking from post 5.
Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddys Lil Darling is hoping to make a successful transition from dirt to turf, following a disastrous attempt at the surface switch at the Group 1 Investec Oaks on June 2 at Epsom Downs when she ran off in the post parade and was a late scratch. The Scat Daddy filly has one start on the turf in her career, a sixth-place finish in the Florida Oaks. Trainer Kenny McPeek said the decision to run her in the Oaks is less because of the surface and more about the distance.
“She really needs the distance more than the ground,” McPeek said. “I could’ve run her in the Acorn, I just didn’t like her at a flat mile. I probably could’ve run her in the Mother Goose, but we just felt like we wanted a little more ground than that. She seems to be a filly that needs pace, and it’s hard to say whether you’ll get that in this race or not, but we’ll see.”
Normandy Farm’s Daddys Lil Darling breaks from post 11 with jockey Dylan Davis.
Irish-bred Beau Recall has racked up three straight second place finishes in stakes races at Santa Anita Park, finishing behind undefeated sensation Sircat Sally in all three, including a loss by a neck in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Stakes on June 17. Trainer Simon Callaghan comes east with Slam Dunk Racing’s bay filly looking for better luck. She will break from post 2 with jockey Flavien Prat.
Rounding out the field is Leah Gyamarti trainee Coasted, runner-up in the 2016 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, who will break from the inside post with rider Joel Rosario; breaking from post 3 is Dynatail ridden by Luis Saez, a Michael Dini-trained daughter of Hightail who won the Penn Oaks on June 3; Irish-bred Grizzel, winner of the Grade 3 Selene Stakes at Woodbine on May 21, leaves from post 4 with David Moran as pilot; Graham Motion trainee Journey Home takes a big step up in class coming off a minor stakes win at Delaware Park and will break from post 6 with Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado; and Violet Blue fresh off breaking her maiden in a dead heat at Belmont Park on June 3 will also take a huge jump up in class, breaking from post 3 for owner Michael Ryan and trainer James Toner, with jockey Manny Franco aboard.
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