by NYRA Press Office | 09.02.2019 | 4:53pm
Leonard C. Green’s A Thread of Blue and Bloom Racing Stable’s Henley’s Joy square off in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational, the third and final leg of the Turf Trinity at Belmont Park.
The 37-day Belmont fall meet begins Friday, offering 45 stakes worth $11.525 million in purse money and eight Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers held over two weekends.
Saturday’s card features the conclusion of the innovative Turf Triple Series, with NBC presenting live coverage and analysis of the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks and Jockey Club Derby, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race offering a berth in the Longines Turf, as part of a nationwide broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m. Eastern.
The stakes-laden card will also include the first running of the $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on Big Sandy.
Henley’s Joy, who kicked off the Turf Trinity in July with a 20-1 upset of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational for trainer Mike Maker, will be joined by Digital Age in the 1 ½-mile Jockey Club Derby as the only two horses to contest all three legs.
A Thread of Blue, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, made every pole a winning one in the second leg of the Turf Trinity, the inaugural edition of the $1 million Saratoga Derby.
Saturday’s rubber match will feature a field of nine contenders, including international shippers from France, England and Canada.
“It would be fabulous to win two legs, but we’re just happy to be in it with a big chance,” said McLaughlin.
A Thread of Blue, a dark bay son of Hard Spun, boasts a record of 5-2-1 from 10 starts. He picked up his first stakes win at Gulfstream in February taking the Dania Beach by 3 ½-lengths, ahead of a score in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at the Hallandale oval.
Following a narrow defeat to Digital Age in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs in May, A Thread of Blue landed fourth in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 1.
Last out, with regular pilot Luis Saez aboard, A Thread of Blue took command of the 11-horse Saratoga Derby field from the gate and stayed strong to the wire for a convincing win.
McLaughlin said he is a little concerned about both the distance and weather heading into Saturday’s test.
“We’re not too sure about the distance and a few days ago there was no rain in the forecast, but now we have rain. He prefers it firm, so hopefully it doesn’t get too soft,” said McLaughlin. “He’s trained great coming into it and he’s run very well. We hope it stays firm. It will be a fresh new course.”
Saez will guide A Thread of Blue from the inside post.
Henley’s Joy, a chestnut son of Kitten’s Joy, has four wins and three seconds from 12 career starts. A maiden winner at first asking last July at Ellis Park, Henley’s Joy has a flair for the dramatic winning the Kentucky Downs Juvenile by a head last September ahead of a narrow nose defeat in the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland in October. His additional runner-up efforts include a neck loss in the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park in January and a half-length miss in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland in April.
With Jose Lezcano aboard for the first time, the hard-luck Henley’s Joy enjoyed a perfect trip in the Belmont Derby. Settled in third position along the rail, Henley’s Joy kicked on gamely down the lane to defeat Social Paranoia by three-quarters of a length.
With Lezcano up for the third time, Henley’s Joy will depart from post 3.
Maker will also saddle Phoenix Thoroughbred III’s Kadar, a Kentucky-bred son of Scat Daddy, who launched his career in England with a win at Haydock for then trainer Karl Burke. He finished third on July 18 in his North American debut in a 1 1/6-mile optional-claimer at Saratoga, ahead of finishing seventh in the Saratoga Derby.
With Manny Franco up, Kadar will emerge from post 7.
Earle Mack and Team Valor’s Spanish Mission, trained by David Simcock, will ship to New York from his base in England for his North American debut in the Jockey Club Derby.
The Noble Mission bay, bred in Kentucky by St. Elias Stables, captured the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy in July at Newmarket and enters the 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Derby, from a good third in the Group 3 Qatar Gordon on August 1 at Goodwood.
Jamie Spencer retains the mount from post 9.
L and N Racing’s Ontario-bred Tone Broke captured two-thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown with wins in the Prince of Wales on dirt at Fort Erie and the Breeders’ at 1 ½-miles on turf at Woodbine in his grass debut.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the dark bay son of Broken Vow has won four of 11 starts. He will be piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post XX.
OTI Racing’s Irish-bred San Huberto, a bay son of Speightstown, ships in from France for trainer Fabrice Chappet. A three-time winner from five starts, San Huberto owns a pair of listed stakes wins including the Coupe des Trois Ans at Lyon Parilly at 12-furlongs in May and the Prix Club Hipico Concepcion – Prix Michel Houyvet at 1 ¾-miles on August 4 at Deauville.
Kentucky Derby-winning rider Flavien Prat has the call from post 5.
Cuadra Miranda SLU’s Pedro Cara, a French-bred son of Pedro the Great, has won two of five starts in his native France. Trained by Mauricio Delcher, Pedro Cara captured the listed Prix Frederic de Lagrange over 12 furlongs of soft turf on July 19 at Vichy.
Tony Piccone retains the mount from post 4.
Klaravich Stables’ Digital Age, a bay son of Invincible Spirit, has won three-of-five starts for three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown.
A winner at first asking on the Tampa Bay Downs turf in January, Digital Age followed up with a head score in his stakes debut in the Columbia in March. With Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, Digital Age made the grade with a rallying effort in the Grade 2 American Turf in May.
Freshened into the first leg of the Turf Trinity on July 6, Digital Age rallied from 12th to finish fourth, defeated less than three lengths by Henley’s Joy. Last out, in the Saratoga Derby, Digital Age closed to complete the exacta behind A Thread of Blue.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will partner with Digital Age for the first time in the Jockey Club Derby, leaving from post 8.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert LaPenta and Dixiana Farms’ Current, a chestnut son of Curlin, bested Henley’s Joy by a nose in October to win the Grade 3 Bourbon.
Although winless since making the grade, Current has hit the board with a third in the Dania Beach and a rallying second in the Jersey Derby last out on August 18 at Monmouth Park.
Junior Alvarado has the call from post 2.
NYRA will celebrate the 2019 Turf Triple Series by offering fans $3 general admission tickets, as well as “Triple Specials” that will include $3 Post Parade programs, hot dogs and concessions throughout Belmont Park.
The first 23 days of the 37-day Belmont fall meet will be held at Belmont Park before the action shifts to Aqueduct Racetrack for Belmont at the Big A beginning on October 11 and continuing through October 27.
The Jockey Club Derby is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post is 1 p.m. with entry gates open to the public at 11 a.m.