Two fields of six juveniles each will line up Saturday at Belmont Park and the winners of each contest will receive points toward starting berths in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Belmont hosts the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1), worth 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers for the Kentucky Derby, and the $400,000 Frizette Stakes (G1), which will award the same amount of points for the Kentucky Oaks.
The Champagne features Practical Joke, who is unbeaten from two starts thus far including the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on September 5. Trainer Chad Brown saddles the bay son of Into Mischief as he seeks his third straight victory.
Syndergaard is also looking for a perfect three-for-three mark after breaking his maiden on August 8 at Saratoga and taking the track’s Funny Cide Stakes just 18 days later by 10 lengths. Trainer Todd Pletcher has tabbed John Velazquez to return to the Majesticperfection colt’s saddle.
No other runner in the Champagne has prior stakes experience, but the rest of the field are exiting easy maiden scores, including Favorable Outcome, who took his maiden debut at Saratoga in late August by six lengths to earn a 96 BRIS Speed rating.
Earlier on Belmont’s Saturday card, Adirondack Stakes (G2) heroine Nonna Mela will face five in the Frizette. The Pletcher pupil took two tries to break her maiden but has captured her last pair by a combined 13 1/4 lengths. Javier Castellano has the call.
Among those looking to derail Nonna Mela’s run will be Libby’s Tail, who finished fourth in the Adirondack, Sorority Stakes third-place finisher Star Super and debut maiden winner Yellow Agate. These performances will have little impact on odds for the Kentucky Derby picture now.