The main event on Saturday’s stakes-packed card at Belmont Park is the $400,000 Man o’ War Stakes (GIT), a prep for the $1 million Manhattan Handicap (GIT) in four weeks, and nine talented older turfers will race the 1 3/8 miles over Belmont’s lawn, including Kaigun and Wake Forest, the 1-2 finishers in the Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream Park last month.
Wake Forest drew the far outside coming off his runner-up finish last time out and will try to turn the tables on his chief rival in here. The good news for the multiple Group III winner (in Germany) is that he’ll likely get the soft turf he seems so fond of and, since he probably prefers even more distance than today’s feature, should have little trouble in that department. He’s a later-running type, but doesn’t necessarily need a quick pace to close into, and can only benefit from having jockey John Velazquez aboard, a rider who knows the Belmont grass better than any other. He’s been training very well for Chad Brown in New York for the past few weeks and has found a good spot to earn his first North American victory if he can get to the wire before running out of ground.
Kaigun won the Pan American before his runner-up finish in the Elkhart Stakes (GIIT) at Keeneland three weeks ago. The Mark Casse trainee always has been productive in the grassy marathons over his career, including four consecutive second-place finishes in graded stakes last year, but hasn’t been able to breakthrough to the top. However, he finally seems to be rounding into top form at age six. The Northern Afleet gelding consistently posts solid speed figures and when he’s right, he’s right. Though he’s never won at this distance, he’s been successful at even longer distances, so a perfectly timed ride from mid-pack from regular jockey Joe Bravo may be all he’ll need to make it to the wire in front.
Morandi is another runner from the powerful Chad Brown stable and though the French Group 3 winner hasn’t won in a while, he’s had excuses, including a troubled fifth-place finish last out in a Keeneland allowance race. This may be a good spot for the son of Holy Roman Emperor to reach the winner’s circle in his third North American appearance.
Peter Vegso’s homebred Go Around has won half of his eight career turf starts for Hall of Famer Bill Mott and though takes a step up in class after winning a non-graded stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last out at nine furlongs, should appreciate the added distance, especially after winning a ten-furlong allowance over this same course nearly a year ago.
Up With the Birds runs in all the big races and earns some minor awards, but hasn’t won in a while and is in tough if he expects to return to the winner’s circle here.
Closing Bell is another one who earns minor awards, but his best here may earn him a large share of the pot.
Can’thelpbelieving, though trained by top conditioner Graham Motion, appears to be better suited to non-graded or allowance events.
Money Multiplier, a third from the Brown barn, won a first-level allowance last time out and is loaded with potential, but may need more experience to beat the top runners in here.
Biz the Nurse had some success in Italian group events but hasn’t raced in nearly a year and may need a start.
The Man o’ War is expected to break from the gate at 6:17 p.m. ET.