Belmont Park soon passes New York’s Thoroughbred torch to Saratoga Race Course, upstate. But, before that happens fans and bettors Saturday will be enjoying the track’s Stars and Stripes Racing Festival.

Chad Brown
Top turf trainer Chad Brown flops “quad” aces with four runners in play for Saturday’s Belmont Derby. (Image: Michael Reaves/Getty)

That’s the highly competitive and extremely lucrative stakes series for top runners on both turf and dirt.

The Saturday highlight is the 1 1/4 mile, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes. That’s a top-level turf event where fans and bettors are expecting to see an international field of 14 three-year-olds compete in the sixth edition of this premier grass race.

Explosive Field of Top Turf Runners at Belmont

The Belmont Derby is the opening leg of the New York Racing Association’s Turf Trinity. The $1 million Saratoga Derby Aug. 4 at Saratoga and $1 million Jockey Club Derby Sept. 7 at Belmont Park complete the series.

The Belmont Derby field boasts four horses from the barn of trainer Chad Brown, two from Todd Pletcher and two more from Aidan O’Brien. O’Brien reigns supreme as Europe’s leading trainer again this year.

Brown sends out Demarchelier, Digital Age, former French runner Rockemperor and Standard Deviation.O’Brien saddles Cape of Good Hope and Blenheim Palace. Pletcher has Social Paranoia and Spinoff. It’s Spinoff’s first grass effort after finishing 18th and sixth, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Others on the 2019 Triple Crown trail competing in this race are Japan’s Master Fencer, who was sixth in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Belmont Stakes. Another is Plus Que Parfait, the UAE Derby winner who reported home eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

Penn Mile winner Moon Colony (Mark Casse), English Bee (Graham Motion), Henley’s Joy (Mike Maker) and Seismic Wave (William Mott) are rounding out the overflow field. The probable post time is 5:44 pm ET. NBC is providing television coverage. This is race nine on the stakes-laden card.

Saratoga Opens Early with New Schedule

Here are the other major races of prominence as part of the racing festival:

  • $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes 
  • $700,000 Suburban Stakes 
  • $300,000 Dwyer Stakes 
  • $300,000 John A. Nerud Stakes

For the entire field for all five of these major events and the complete 11-race card, click here.

The big day and the Sunday card that follows wrap up Belmont’s 48-day spring/summer meeting featuring Sir Winston’s Belmont Stakes victory June 8. However, race fans are lamenting that the rigors of the Triple Crown trail are taking its toll on many top competitors. They include Kentucky Derby official winner Country House and Sir Winston. Both are now out of training awaiting, most likely, a 2020 campaign as four-year-olds.

Saratoga opens on July 11. That’s earlier than usual this year. The move is part of a new five-day-a-week racing schedule that’s supplanting the previous customary six days-a-week schedule. Track officials are hoping that by opening earlier in July and giving up Monday racing that more horses will be able get an additional start at the historic upstate oval.

The runners return to Belmont Park on Sept. 6 for a month before heading to Aqueduct for a race meet that begins in autumn and concludes next spring.  

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