Stars & Stripes Day at Belmont Park

A stellar day of stakes racing was had yesterday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., that saw the return to prominence of some very good thoroughbreds that had taken a few hard knocks of late.

  1. The $750,000 Suburban Stakes was won by Keen Ice (5-1), trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Jose Ortiz. The horse had become a joke to insiders, such as Andrew Beyer. Keen Ice The horse has become the answer to a trivia question, having beaten the mostly unbeatbeatable American Pharaoh in the 2015 Travers Stakes, and hadnt won since then. He'd ran moderately well earlier in the year in Dubai, but horses coming back from that dessert are not expected to fire next time out. But Keen Ice had plenty of rest thereafter, and good training at the hands of able Pletcher in the meantime.
  2. One thing that he proved in the Travers that became important today was that he could win at this distance (1 mile & 1/4). The pace set in front of him did not guarantee his best chance, but Oritz wisely laid him closer than usual to the slow early pace set by Matt King Coal. That horse gave up the lead to stalking favorite Shaman Ghost, but he was in turn bested by Keen Ice. Also ran: Follow Me Crev, which may have wished to be back in California.
  3. Also returning to prominence this day was Practical Joke, which had floundered on the Derby trail and gone winless since capturing the Champagne Stakes for two-year-olds here last year. In the 1-mile Dwyer Stakes, the horse looked very strong, maneuvering through the turn and coming down the stretch. The betting public was hip, and Practical Joke went off a favorite, paying $3.50 for a $2.00 bet.
  4. Oscar Performance was another highly regarded 2-year-old that had become a disappointing 3-year-old, but who is now back on Broadway. After winning the Breeders' Cup Futurity for 2016, he' lost repeatedly, until the Pennine Ridge Stakes, the warm-up for yesterday's Belmont Derby Invitational . As such, he was a natural pick, yet he went off at 5-1, ignored by a public enamored of Yoshida, a Japanese freak that had made a splashy run on Preakness Stakes day at Pimlico. Oscar Performance appears to be back in the highlife , but he still has noted detractors. The Daily Racing Form's Mike Watchmaker decried the Belmont Derby's lack of contested pace (Oscar Performance led from start to finish), though it seems to me he is on thin ground expecting foreign invaders to deliver the competitive early speed. Three-quarter of a mile at 1:14.37, granted, is slow for horses of this caliber. Last was Arlow (2nd choice), which did not benefit from a longer time in between races than Oscar Performance, nor from having mighty Mike Smith in the irons. Nothing better depicts the blur of a day of racing for than this: Jose Oritz won five, and the fact, at that time, was totally lost on me. Once went to Santa Anita on day when Lafit Pincay did the same, and again, it was not apparent to me at the time it was transpiring. (My (then)5 year old nephew, however, repeatedly called out the winner thru the day!) - Jack Vaughan
  5. Oscar Performance - 2017 Belmont Derby Invitational
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