NEW YORK (July 2, 2014) - French import Xcellence leads a top international field for a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in the $1 million Belmont Oaks at Belmont Park on the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In” live telecast this Saturday, July 5 on NBCSN at 5 p.m. ET.
The Belmont Oaks, run at 1 ¼ miles for 3-year-old fillies, will be the third of 11 telecasts under the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series” banner on NBC and NBCSN, which will include a total of 18 automatic qualifying races into the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, which will be televised live on NBCSN and NBC.
Saturday’s telecast, which will also include the $500,000 Suburban Handicap for Classic division horses, will be hosted by Laffit Pincay, who will be joined by analyst Randy Moss, and reporter Nick Luck.
The Oaks, part of an outstanding stakes card on Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont, figures to lure an eclectic mix of American and European turf stars, led by the Martin Schwartz’s Xcellence, who has twice been group I-placed in her native France this year. The daughter of Champs Elysees, trained by Francois Doumen, won the Prix Imprudence at Maison-Laffittes in April and enters off back-to-back third-place finishes in the French 1000 Guineas at Longchamp in May and French Oaks in her last start at Chantilly on June 15. Xcellence is 2-for-7 lifetime and brings a strong mix of class and stamina to the Belmont Oaks.
Flying Jib, who has won three straight in Ireland, including The Curragh’s Athasi in her last start May 5 for trainer Dermot Weld; Eastern Belle, a recent maiden winner at Newbury for trainer John Gosden; owner, trainer and breeder Henri-Alex Pantall’s Goldy Espony, who won the Prix Penelope at Saint-Cloud in April and Wonderfully, winless in five starts since winning the Silver Flash at Leopardstown last July for trainer Aidan O’Brien, figure to round out the European contingent for the Belmont Oaks.
The top American threat is likely to be Gary and Mary West’s Room Service, who traveled to Santa Anita to win the American Oaks for trainer Wayne Catalano in her last start May 31. The daughter of More Than Ready also won Keeneland’s Ashland in a dead-heat on the Polytrack in April and Gulfstream Park’s Herecomesthebirde in March. Room Service is 4-for-7 lifetime and has already shown she can handle the demanding 1 ¼ miles of the Belmont Oaks.
Trainer Christophe Clement will likely start two, with Sea Queen, who won the local prep, the Wonder Again in her last start May 25 as the biggest threat. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is 3-for-5 lifetime and has a home court advantage. Summer Solo, who is undefeated in three lifetime starts, is also expected. The Arch filly enters off an optional-claiming win over the course June 11 and will be making her stakes debut Saturday.
Minorette, second in the Wonder Again for trainer Chad Brown; My Conquestadory, who won last year’s “Win and You’re In” Alcibiades at Keeneland before finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf for trainer Mark Casse; Recepta, third in the Wonder Again for trainer Jimmy Toner and Rosalind, who dead-heated with Room Service in the Ashland and could wheel back after failing to finish in Royal Ascot’s Coronation June 20, for trainer Kenny McPeek, are expected to round out the American-based starters in the Belmont Oaks.
The $500,000 Suburban, run at 1 ¼ miles for 3-year-olds and up, is expected to be led by John Gunther’s homebred Last Gunfighter, who was fifth in last year’s Classic for trainer Chad Brown and enters off a win in his seasonal debut in the Mountainview at Penn National May 31. The 5-year-old son of First Samurai won four graded stakes last year, including the Hawthorne Gold Cup to end his campaign in November and is 9-for-16 lifetime.
Norumbega and Micromanage, the 1-2 finishers of the local Brooklyn June 7 and Ever Rider, fourth in that race, are also expected, as are Moreno, who won the Dwyer over the track last year, Mylute, third in the 2013 Preakness, Romansh, who won the Excelsior at Aqueduct in March and Stormin Monarcho, who has won two straight optional claimers at Delaware Park, are likely for the Suburban.
The complete “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Win and You’re In” television schedule may be found at the following link: http://challenge.breederscup.com/schedule