Four weeks out from the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, Belmont Park will host an action-packed weekend of Breeders’ Cup prep races.
Four “Win and You’re In” qualifiers are on the agenda, plus a bevy of other rich stakes races with potential Breeders’ Cup implications. To help you keep up with all the action, here’s a quick rundown of the major races to watch at Belmont this weekend (all times Eastern).
Saturday, October 5
Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes (Race 5, 2:32 p.m.)
#7 Disco Partner won this race last year by 4 1/2 lengths and is 9-for-15 at Belmont Park, so he warrants respect in this prep for another run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), where he finished third in 2018. But Disco Partner has lost his last six starts and might not be quite the force he once was, in which case the up-and-coming #5 Shekky Shebaz (who easily defeated Disco Partner in the Lucky Coin Stakes at Saratoga) might be the more likely winner.
Grade 3 Matron Stakes (Race 6, 3:05 p.m.)
The half-dozen 2-year-old fillies entered in the Matron could use this six-furlong dash as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2). On paper the race looks like a battle between #1 Alms (a Godolphin homebred who won her debut at Belmont by 3 3/4 lengths) and #5 Karak (a Wesley Ward-trained stakes winner whose lone defeat from three starts came at Royal Ascot). But these are juveniles, and this is a grass race. Almost anything could happen.
Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (Race 9, 4:50 p.m.)
#6 Sadler’s Joy, who finished third in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), could start as the favorite in the Joe Hirsch after he rallied boldly to finish second by a neck in the Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. But five of his six rivals are accomplished graded stakes winners, including last year’s frontrunning Joe Hirsch winner #7 Channel Maker, and even the former claimer #4 Cross Border could be a threat on a step up in class. Cross Border has won five of his last six starts and is bred to relish the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Joe Hirsch.
Grade 1 Champagne Stakes (Race 10, 5:22 p.m.)
Potential Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders will be on display in this one-mile “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The undefeated #3 Green Light Go is the 8-5 favorite based off his easy victory in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2), but #7 Tiz the Law was a fast debut winner against New York-breds at Saratoga, and #1 Alpha Sixty Six overcame a slow pace and a wide trip to win his debut at Belmont. This should be a competitive heat.
Sunday, October 6
Grade 3 Futurity Stakes (Race 7, 4:12 p.m.)
#2 Tomato Bill is the only runner with previous experience in a graded stakes race. He finished second in the Sanford Stakes (G3) at Saratoga, but he has never run on turf, which could place him at a disadvantage in this six-furlong prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. #3 Embolden has already recorded two blowout wins on grass (including a victory in the Jamestown Stakes at Colonial Downs), and #5 Another Miracle is likewise a stakes winner on turf. He claimed the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga.
Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes (Race 8, 4:47 p.m.)
Trainer Chad Brown has won four of the last five editions of the Flower Bowl, and in all likelihood he’ll claim another Sunday with #2 Sistercharlie. The winner of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), this champion mare has already rattled off victories in the Diana Stakes (G1) and Beverly D. Stakes (G1) this year and will use the Flower Bowl as a springboard toward a defense of her Breeders’ Cup title. With stablemate #5 Thais entered as a pacemaker, an easy victory should be in the offing for Sistercharlie.
Grade 1 Frizette Stakes (Race 9, 5:20 p.m.)
In this one-mile qualifier for the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), #7 Frank’s Rockette could start as the favorite off her runner-up efforts in the Adirondack Stakes (G2) and Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. But #1 Quality Response, a 5 1/2-length winner of the Phone Chatter Stakes at Los Alamitos, could be a dangerous shipper for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has won with 14 of his 38 starters at Belmont since 2014.
Enjoy the racing!