By Richard Rosenblatt
Now that the summer season of racing has kicked off, the road to the Breeders’ Cup is on in a big way with three “Win And You’re In” challenge races – the Suburban (G2) at Belmont Park and the Princess Rooney (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, and the John A. Nerud (G2) at Belmont on Sunday.
TV will have live coverage throughout the July Fourth weekend with NBC Sports televising the Suburban beginning at 5 p.m. ET; TVG televising the Princess Rooney and the Smile Sprint (G3) beginning at 5:15 p.m., and America’s Day at the Races program on Fox Sports broadcasting from 1-3:30 p.m. on FS1 and from 3:30-5 p.m. on FS2.
The winner of the Suburban earns an expenses-paid berth to the BC Classic (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6; the Princess Rooney winner has a spot in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint (G1); and the John A. Nerud winner picks up a free pass into the BC Sprint (G1).
On Sunday, NBCSN has live coverage of the John A. Nerud starting at 5 p.m., with FS2 going from 1-5:30 p.m., and FS1 from 5:30-6 p.m.
Here’s a quick look at the races:
$400,000 Suburban Stakes (G2), 1 ¼ miles, 4 and up
Post time 5:44 p.m. (race 10)
Mystic Guide, one of Godolphin’s stable of stars this year, is the even-money favorite in a field of six that includes 6-5 second choice Happy Saver.
Trained by Michael Stidham, Mystic Guide is 2-for-2 this year, winning the Razorback Handicap (G3) before his big win in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March. Luis Saez has the call leaving from post 4.
Happy Saver, trained by Todd Pletcher, is 5-for-5, including a three-quarter length victory over Mystic Guide in the 2020 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont. Happy Saver won and allowance optional claimer in May in his first start of 2021
Moretti, Max Player, Informative and Prioritize complete the field.
$350,000 Princess Rooney (G2), 7 furlongs, fillies and mares 3 and up
Post time: 5:35 p.m. (race 11)
Estilio Talentoso is the slight 5-2 choice over Ce Ce in a field of eight fillies and mares.
Trained by Juan Arriagada, the 4-year-old filly won the 7-firlong Bed o’ Roses (G3) at Belmont last time out, while the more accomplished Ce, trained by Michael McCarthy, won a pair of Grade 1’s in 2020 but was fourth in her most recent start in the Santa Maria Stakes (G3) on May 22.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano rides Estilio Talentoso; fellow Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza has the call on Ce Ce.
$200,000 Smile Sprint (G3), 6 furlongs, 3 and up
Post time: 5:02 p.m. (race 10)
Diamond Oops is the slight 5-2 favorite in a field of eight, with Chance It the 3-1 second choice and Miles Ahead at 4-1.
Trained by Patrick Biancone, Diamond Oops is a multiple graded-stakes winner, winning last out by a head in a handicap race at Gulfstream. The 6-year-old gelding has a career record of 20-8-3-1 and earnings of more than $1.1 million.
$150,000 Kent Stakes (G3), 1 1/8 miles, turf, 3-year-olds
Post time: 4:15 p.m. (race 7)
Wesley Ward-trained Like the King is the 8-5 favorite and will have Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard leaving for post 5.
Like the King won the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) and then finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The chestnut colt ran fifth in the Audubon Stakes at Churchill on May 29.
Yes This Time, winner of four straight making his stakes debut, and Gershwin, winner of the Penn Mile (G3), are among the top challengers.
$300,000 Delaware Oaks (G3), 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-old fillies
Post time 4:45 p.m. (race 8)
Crazy Beautiful is the 6-5 favorite in a field of nine, with Hall of Famer Mike Smith coming in to ride for trainer Ken McPeek.
The gray filly rebounded from a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with a victory in the Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita in her most recent race.
Midnight Obsession is the second choice at 4-1.
$250,000 John A. Nerud (G2), 7 furlongs, 4 and up
Post time: 5:44 p.m. (race 10)
Firenze Fire is back at Belmont looking for his eighth victory at the racetrack he seems to love more than any other.
The 6-year-old gelding won his two previous starts, both at Belmont, taking the Runhappy Stakes (G3) on May 8 and the True North (G2) on June 4. He’s the 3-5 favorite.
Firenze Fire, with Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard leaves from post 1.
Also entered are Todd Pletcher-trained Mind Control with John Velazquez aboard and American Power, trained by Rob Atras with Joel Rosario set to ride.