Belmont news & notes
by AT THE TRACK
Oct 24, 2013 | 907 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Javier Castellano rode Cluster of Stars to victory at Belmont on Saturday. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
Javier Castellano rode Cluster of Stars to victory at Belmont on Saturday. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
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On Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, Raglin River under jockey Rajiv Maragh took first place in the sixth race of the day, six furlongs on the turf with a purse of $90,000. (Photo: Michael O’Kane)
On Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, Raglin River under jockey Rajiv Maragh took first place in the sixth race of the day, six furlongs on the turf with a purse of $90,000. (Photo: Michael O’Kane)
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In the fifth race of the day, jockey Javier Castellano rode Stock Fund to victory in seven furlongs on the Belmont turf for a purse of $90,000. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
In the fifth race of the day, jockey Javier Castellano rode Stock Fund to victory in seven furlongs on the Belmont turf for a purse of $90,000. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
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John Velazquez, North America’s all-time leading money-earning jockey with $297,922,320 in career purses, added to his total by riding Wired Bryan to victory in the third race of the day, seven furlongs on dirt. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
John Velazquez, North America’s all-time leading money-earning jockey with $297,922,320 in career purses, added to his total by riding Wired Bryan to victory in the third race of the day, seven furlongs on dirt. (Photo: Michael O'Kane)
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• Trainer Gary Sciacca was still beaming with pride on Sunday morning after having successfully coached Saratoga Snacks from off the bench onto a three-quarter-length victory in the $250,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park.

“We made the right decision going long,” said Sciacca, who along with Saratoga Snacks’ owner, NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, debated whether to run in the 1 1/8-mile Classic or the six-furlong Hudson Handicap on Empire Showcase Day. “He’s a fighter. He’s an athlete. Bill says he’s like getting a Lawrence Taylor.”

While Parcells was in Florida and unable to personally share in the victory, the trainer was able to celebrate in Manhattan with another of Saratoga Snacks’ fans, celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

“Bobby wanted to watch the race at home before he had to go host the Tacos and Tequila event,” said Sciacca. “In fact, the first text I got after the race was from Bobby: ‘Awesome!’”

When Sciacca arrived at the barn, he said Saratoga Snacks was bright-eyed and full of energy after his first race in 2 ½ months. By 11 a.m., the ridgling had his head deep in his feed tub.

• Cluster of Stars, who remained unbeaten in seven starts when she won Saturday’s Iroquois by 3 ¼ lengths, could compete again in 2013 but is not being considered for the Breeders’ Cup, according to Toby Sheets, who oversees Steve Asmussen’s string at Belmont Park.

“She came out of the race in very good shape,” said Sheets on Sunday. “I thought she ran great.”

In the Iroquois, Cluster of Stars took her customary spot at the front and was never challenged by the runner-up, last year’s winner Willet. After the race, Willet’s trainer Jimmy Iselin hugged Sheets and later offered his congratulations via telephone.

“He’s just a gentleman,” said Sheets of Iselin.

• Champion My Miss Aurelia will return from a seven-month layoff on Thursday when she competes in the $100,000 Punkin Pie overnight stakes, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares who haven’t won a stakes in 2013.

My Miss Aurelia, the 2011 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, will be making her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher. She has raced once in 2013, finishing third in the Grade 3 Azeri in March at Oaklawn Park.

“We were just looking for somewhere for her to bring her back off a long layoff,” said Pletcher. “She’s indicated to us that she has trained very well and is ready to get started again.”

Pletcher said a strong performance on Thursday could propel My Miss Aurelia to the Grade 2, $300,000 Go for Wand Handicap on November 29 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Yesterday, Pletcher and Ed Stanco of King of Prussia Stable confirmed Princess of Sylmar for this year’s Distaff after the 3-year-old breezed four furlongs on Belmont’s training track in 48.86 seconds.

“She breezed very well, as we’ve become accustomed to,” said Pletcher. “She came out of it in good order, so all systems are go.”
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