Racing Recap: Far Bridge, Aspen Grove win Grade 1s at Belmont; Verifying Wins Indiana Derby

On the penultimate day of the Belmont Park fall/summer meet, a pair of Grade 1s produced a big payoff in the $500,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) and a predictable finish in the $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1).

In the 1 ¼-mile Oaks on Saturday (July 8), 15-1 longshot Aspen Grove ($33.40 on a $2 win bet) rallied in the final furlong in a field of nine and beat Prerequisite by three-quarters of a length.

In the 1 ¼-mile Derby Invitational, 3-1 second-choice Far Bridge gave new owner LSU Stables it first ever victory when the 3-year-old bay colt won by a length over 2-1 favorite The Foxes.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, who saddled Charge It to win the Suburban Stakes (G2) earlier on the Belmont card, Far Bridge had two victories and two seconds in four prior starts. LSU Stables began operations in 2022 and this was the owners’ first victory – they were 0-for-19 through July 7, according to Equibase.

The final day of the Belmont meet is Sunday, and the 40-day Saratoga summer meet opens July 13.

A rundown of some Saturday’s graded stake at Belmont, Delaware Park, Horseshoe Indianapolis:

$750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1)

Far Bridge ($8.70) moved into contention on the far turn, rallied in the final furlong, and took the lead from Ireland-bred The Foxes inside the sixteenth pole for the victory with Jose Ortiz aboard.

Winning trainer Todd Pletcher called the trip a fortunate one for this son of English Channel.

“Everything worked out. We were able to save some ground pretty much around both turns, especially the far turn,’’ he said. ”We knew he had a good closing kick, we just needed to be in position to deliver it. I really liked the way he was moving around the turn and then when he got clear in the stretch, I knew he’d keep coming. We always felt like the added distance was going to be to his advantage.”

Next up for Larry Sarf’s LSU Stables’ Far Bridge is likely the Saratoga Derby Invitational (G1) on Aug. 5.

Mondego, 41-1, was third, followed by Webslinger, Silver Knott, Mendelssohns March, Redistricting, Kalik, Wizard of Westwood, Cyber Ninja, and Boppy O.

$500,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1)

One of four Ireland-breds in a field of nine, Aspen Grove, a son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, gave European-based runners five wins in the last six Oaks.

Trainer James “Fozzy” Stack was delighted with the win, with favorite Mission of Joy running seventh. Oisin Murphy rode the winner.

“This is great. I’m thankful that Craig (Bernick, breeder and co-owner) sent me the filly. She ran huge today. Last out, she was in season unfortunately, but you have one Guineas to run in,’’ Stack said, referring to the filly’s last-place finish in the 10-horse Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1) at the Curragh on May 28. “It didn’t work out, but she did well today and shipped over well.”

Added co-owner Bernick of Glen Hill Farm: “Stumbling at the start probably helped her considering the wide post. He (Murphy) was able to tuck right in and get good position. You could tell that she was handy the whole way. He’s a world-class rider, a Champion rider in England which is probably the toughest racing circuit in the world.”

Next up? Who knows? Bernick believes the filly should stay in New York for the Saratoga Oaks Invitational (G3) on Aug. 4, but also is considering the Del Mar Oaks (G1) on Aug. 19.

Winning time was 2:04.09.

$250,000 Suburban Stakes (G2)

Not a stellar field in this version of a race that has seen several champions win it over the years, and it played a minor role on the Belmont card.

A five-horse field was entered, and 3-5 favorite Charge It ($3.30) had an easy time in cruising to a 4 ¾-length victory.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray son of Tapit, ran fourth in the Met Mile (G1) in his previous start. Under John Velazquez, Charge It raced smoothly behind pacesetter Red Run before taking over with less than a mile to go.

Clapton was second and Unbridled Bomber was third in the 1 ¼-mile race. Winning time was 2:01.31.

$500,000 Delaware Handicap (G2)

A determined Idiomatic recovered from a stumble at the start and outdueled Classy Edition to win by a head as the 2-5 favorite.

Trained by Brad Cox, a 3-year-old bay filly recovered nicely, moved into contention on the backstretch, was taken four-wide bid on the turn and came up with a finishing run that held off the 5-2 Classy Edition.

Idiomatic, ridden by Florent Geroux, has now won five of her last six starts, with a career mark of 9-6-1-2 and earnings of nearly $775,000 for Juddmonte.

Idiomatic returned $2.80 for a $2 win bet and covered the 1 3-16 miles in 1:59.41. Morning Matcha was third, followed by Royal Take Charge, Gamestroke, and Battle Bling.

$300,000 Indiana Derby (G3)

Verifying ($3.20) dug in over the final strides and held off Raise Cain by a nose at Horseshoe Indianapolis for his first victory since January.

The 3-year-old son of Justify ran a close second to Disarm in the Matt Winn (G3) on June 16 in his previous start which followed a 16th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 6.

“He had to dig in late, but glad to be back in the winner column,’’ winning trainer Brad Cox said. “Hopefully, we can build on this. We’ve been thinking about shortening him up (to shorter distances in the future).”

Raise Cain ran eighth in the Derby and fourth in the Matt Winn in his two previous starts.

Winning time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.15. Marcellano Pedroa, Jr., was aboard Verifying, while Luan Machado had the call on Raise Cain.

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