The 151st Belmont Stakes is just one of eight Grade I stakes on Saturday’s 13-race program at Belmont Park. Let’s dive into a pair of the undercard races below.
Belmont Race 9 (Post time: 4:46 p.m. Eastern)
The Grade I, $1.2 million Metropolitan Handicap
One mile on dirt
#2 MCKINZIE (5-2, morning-line favorite) ended a brief hard-luck losing streak in Churchill’s Alysheba Stakes going 1 1/16th-miles last time out. He had lost at short prices in both the San Pasqual and Santa Anita Handicap earlier in the campaign. MCKINZIE, who won the Grade I Malibu going seven furlongs just a few months ago, should have no problem negotiating the in-between distance of the Met Mile. Mike Smith takes the reins once more on the Bob Baffert trainee; they teamed up for the victory in this race in 2017 with Mor Spirit.
#3 MITOLE (3-1) broke through for his first Grade I win in his first ever attempt in the Churchill Downs when last seen. The flashy Steve Asmussen trainee has won six in a row, including the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap two starts ago. MITOLE will now have to prove he can handle the stretchout to a mile at a fairly short price. He may not be the best bet in the race but he’s hard to want to wager against. Ricardo Santana Jr, who guided Bee Jersey to a Met Mile win last year, has the call.
#4 THUNDER SNOW (5-1) makes a surprising move as he cuts back off his second career Dubai World Cup victory. He has a win at this distance though it occurred way back in February of 2017. THUNDER SNOW has run at Belmont once before, getting caught late by longshot Discreet Lover in the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup last fall. Christophe Soumillon flies in for the assignment on this classy handicap horse.
#9 PRINCE LUCKY (12-1) was well-beaten in the Westchester on Derby Day at Belmont Park, but it occurred over a very sloppy track. That defeat snapped a three-race win streak, all stakes, including last year’s Easy Goer over this course. John Velazquez climbs back aboard.
The play: $6 exacta box 2/3, $2 exacta 2,3/4,9 ($20)
Belmont Race 10 (Post time: 5:36 p.m. Eastern)
The Grade I, $1 million Manhattan Handicap
1 1/4-miles on turf
#8 BRICKS AND MORTAR (7-5, morning-line favorite) added a victory in Churchill’s Old Forester Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby day to an already-impressive 2019 résumé that includes scores in the Pegasus World Cup Turf and Muniz Memorial Handicap. His 10-8-0-2 lifetime record (2-for-3 at Belmont) stands out on paper, as do his speed figures. BRICKS AND MORTAR has never gone 10 furlongs, but his 1 3/16th-mile victory in the Pegasus indicates that distance won’t be an issue. Irad Ortiz Jr, among the best turf riders in the country, has the call on the Chad Brown trainee.
#5 CHANNEL CAT (20-1) could complete the exacta at a big price under John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher. He was a modest fourth in the Fort Marcy Stakes, his 2019 bow, last month, but that 1 1/8-mile heat was probably a prep for the Manhattan. CHANNEL CAT is working much more sharply for this than he was for his seasonal debut. The Dueling Grounds Derby (going 1 5/16th-miles at Kentucky Downs) and Bald Eagle Derby (1 1/2-miles at Laurel) winner from a year ago holds longshot appeal getting back to firm going.
#7 OLYMPICO (6-1) won the Fort Marcy at 18-1 in his stateside debut, albeit over a boggy Belmont turf course. He showed enough ability overseas prior to that to not want to dismiss that race as a fluke. Kendrick Carmouche rides the stablemate of the top choice.
#4 QURBAAN (8-1) makes sense underneath as the consistent son of Speightstown has been in the money in each of his six stateside starts. That includes last month’s runner-up performance behind BRICKS AND MORTAR in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Mike Smith will be aboard.
The play: $10 exacta 8/5, $5 exacta 8/4,7 ($20)
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