Irad Ortiz Jr. and Chad Brown
Belmont Park will celebrate Father’s Day with a variety of “dad-friendly” activities on tap to join a special 10-race live racing program on Sunday, anchored by the Grade 3, $ 300,000 Poker for 4-year-olds and up at a mile on the turf.
Trainer Chad Brown will be represented by a trio of contenders in the 32nd running of the Poker, led by Juddmonte Farm’s Grade 2 Dixie runner-up Projected.
The British-bred son of Showcasing returned from a nearly 19-month layoff in March after transferring to the Brown barn and being gelded last fall. Projected, who posted three seconds against stakes company in France in 2015, dead heated for fourth in his U.S. debut in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park.
He came back the following month with a nose victory in an April 9 allowance at Keeneland, beating an imposing field of stakes winners that included two-time Grade 1 Turf Classic victor Divisidero and multiple graded stakes winner Kaigun.
In the Dixie on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course, the 5-year-old Projected saved ground under regular jockey Joel Rosario but was unable to catch a pace-pressing World Approval, coming up 2 ¼ lengths short of the winner.
“The horse is training well,” said Brown. “He ran a good second in the Dixie last time out. He didn’t really get the pace setup that he was looking for, but he still ran well. We feel he’s up to the task of winning graded stakes over here.
“We ended up castrating the horse and giving him some additional time [after his arrival to the U.S.], which has really seemed to help him,” he added. “Now he seems to be a really steady horse. He shouldn’t have too many interruptions in his schedule going forward.”
Rosario is named to ride Projected, set to break from post 2.
Brown will also send Woodford Racing’s Danger’s Hour runner-up Catapult, who finished a troubled fourth in the Dixie last time out.
“He had a lot of trouble in [the Dixie],” said Brown. “He’s been a bit unlucky this year. I’m hoping he gets a clean trip and behaves himself. He can be a little temperamental at times, but when he keeps his cool and focuses on what he’s doing, he’s very talented.”
Catapult, a 4-year-old colt by Kitten’s Joy, will break from post 6 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Rounding out Brown’s triumvirate is Paul Pompa, Jr.’s homebred Night Prowler, a close second to Canadian champion Conquest Typhoon in an optional claimer on May 4, looking for his third lifetime victory at Belmont.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride the 5-year-old gelding by Giant’s Causeway from the inside post.
Also set for the Poker are Donegal Racing’s Ballagh Rocks for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; European import Bolting, making his stateside debut for France-based conditioner Francis-Henri Graffard; and 10-year-old turf veteran Lubash for the Christophe Clement barn. Weekend Hideaway is entered for the main track only.
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