Belmont Derby – USA Big Race Preview

The Belmont Derby has been run as a graded stakes event since 1978. Prior to 2014 this race was run in October as the Jamaica Handicap. Since moving it to July they have re-named it the Belmont Derby, and also have upped the purse money from $500,000 to it’s current purse at $1 million. The combination of purse money and it’s newly cemented status as a Grade 1 race has brought top notch horses from around the world to this race. 

Race Facts:

Fastest Winning Time: 1.33:60

Longest Winning Margain: 9 3/4 lengths

Last years winner of the Belmont Derby was Catholic Boy. Catholic Boy has won multiple graded stakes including the prestigious Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The Grade 1 Belmont Derby will be race 9 at Belmont Park on Saturday. The race is run at a 1 1/4 mile on the turf, and is scheduled to have a full field of 14 going to post. Trainer Aidan O’Brien sends out a pair of contenders, and trainer Chad Brown sends 4 horses to the post in search of his first Belmont Derby Win. Digital Age, one of those trained by Chad Brown, could be favorite at post time.

2018 Belmont Deby

The Lead:
The former Jamaica Stakes was repurposed into a summer showcase and a new name with international intrigue in 2014. Since then, the Belmont Invitational Derby has been won by the likes of Deauville and Catholic Boy. It’s part of a Stars & Stripes Racing Festival at Belmont that also co-features the G1 Belmont Oaks, G2 Suburban Stakes, G3 Dwyer Stakes and the G2 John A. Nerud Stakes. The Belmont Invitational Derby also kicks off NYRA’s inaugural Turf Trinity, which includes the $1 million Saratoga Derby Aug. 4 and the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Sept. 7 at Belmont.

Field Depth:   
DIGITAL AGE and MOON COLONY are G2 winners of recent vintage, while PLUS QUE PARFAIT won an international G2 in March. DEMARCHELIER has won at the G3 level. Imports ROCKEMPEROR, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE and BLENHEIM PALACE are G2/G3-placed in Europe. SPINOFF is G2-placed on dirt and a veteran of his crop’s top races on dirt.


Cape of Good Hope – Ryan Moore wins from Cap Francais -Gerald Mosse and Turgenev – Frankie Dettori
The Investec Blue Riband Trial (Listed Race) (Class 1) 


Pace: 
Stablemates SPINOFF and SOCIAL PARANOIA are the only runners with consistent designs of being forwardly placed on paper. They can control the tempo, and that’s never an easy estimation for horseplayers when they’re an uncoupled entry.

Our Eyes: 
Chad Brown seeks his first victory in the Belmont Invitational Derby. He was second here a year ago with Analyze It as the 2-1 favorite and third in both 2015 and ’16. He’s had at least 1 starter in all 5 summer editions to this point and will send out DIGITAL AGE , DEMARCHELIER , STANDARD DEVIATION and ROCKEMPEROR on Saturday. DIGITAL AGE and DEMARCHELIER both have won all 3 career starts, including the G2 Crown Royal American Turf and G3 Pennine Ridge, respectively. STANDARD DEVIATION found his mojo on turf at Monmouth last out vs. lesser after 4 unsuccessful bids on dirt. ROCKEMPEROR is G3-placed from France making his US debut for the new outfit. Three of Brown’s quartet took the brunt of the post draw, luring the 12-13-14, while STANDARD DEVIATION lucked into the 2-hole.

Aidan O’Brien won this race 2 years ago with Deauville and takes 2 shots this time with CAPE OF GOOD HOPE and BLENHEIM PALACE. The stronger of the pair appears to be CAPE OF GOOD HOPE based on the French Derby finish and the fact Ryan Moore was his pilot overseas. Both by stamina stud Galileo, the damside of the pedigree for CAPE OF GOOD HOPE may play longer than BLENHEIM PALACE. But you know O’Brien won’t bring horses over here not capable of getting an American distance of 10 furlongs. Only if conditions are soft would I consider BLENHEIM PALACE on a higher plane than CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, who appears strongest on firm going.

Todd Pletcher has yet to win the Belmont Invitational Derby, but twice captured this race in the Jamaica era. He has SOCIAL PARANOIA and Triple Crown alumnus SPINOFF. It was SOCIAL PARANOIA actually favored in his last 2 starts against the Chad Brown rivals DIGITAL AGE and DEMARCHELIER. Though he lost that pair by a total of 2 lengths, it’s hard to imagine additional distance helps him close the gap given he’s by Street Boss out of a Deputy Minister mare. Although SOCIAL PARANOIA is more proven on turf than SPINOFF, it’s the latter who has more name cache from his Louisiana Derby runner-up and Triple Crown appearances. Pedigree-wise, he’s by the versatile Hard Spun and out of dirt start mare Zaftig. But second dam Zoftig had some turf about her. If the pace was hotter, I’d have less interest in the Pletcher pair. But as it stands, they could keep punching a long way.

MASTER FENCER and PLUS QUE PARFAIT follow the same narrative as original grass horses diverted to dirt and put on the Kentucky Derby trail. They’re both well-traveled, but now back settled in and perhaps have 1 more strong effort in them before you have to think a respite is in order. By Point of Entry, there would be no surprise if PLUS QUE PARFAIT takes to this lawn at Belmont. Papa won nearly every important turf stakes at this track and he was sire of last year’s Belmont Derby runner-up Analyze It.

MOON COLONY is being asked to extend a quarter-mile off his G2 Penn Mile score and the pedigree says it’s a tall order. He’s by Uncle Mo and is half-sister to sprint star Cavorting. Mark Casse has done much right this year with War of Will and Sir Winston winning the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Another big score in this crop isn’t impossible, but distance could be his undoing.

ENGLISH BEE scored the Jimmy Murphy on Preakness weekend with a near-perfect trip. He wasn’t far off DIGITAL AGE at Tampa Bay prior to that despite a difficult trip. He’s not impossible for a Graham Motion barn as good as it gets developing US turfers. Sire English Channel made his hay at Belmont and has accounted for himself well at stud with his progeny there as well.

HENLEY’S JOY and SEISMIC WAVE also come out of the Pennine Ridge. Both have similar closing styles, but SEISMIC WAVE seems to have progressed more than HENLEY’S JOY and is the more ferocious finisher. Trainer Bill Mott has had a dream 3YO crop by his standards for it only being the first weekend in July, so SEISMIC WAVE stands a solid chance of continuing that.

Digital Age – Winner of the American Turf on Derby Day

Most Certain Exotics Contender: DIGITAL AGE is perfect to date and has local experience.

Best Longshot Exotics Contender: PLUS QUE PARFAIT is bred to love this course and has class about him.

Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $25 exacta part-wheel DIGITAL AGE , DEMARCHELIER, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE and SOCIAL PARANOIA over PLUS QUE PARFAIT.  

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Belmont Derby – USA Big Race Preview
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