The Stephens (Grade 2)- $300.000 Purse
BEL- For Three Year Olds
Seven Furlongs on the Dirt
June 10, 2017
It’s BEL day! The final jewel of the Triple Crown is set to take place, and once again we have no horse in our game who has the potential to win the TC. But at BEL Park, the running of the BEL is not the only highlight of the day, as there are outstanding races up and down the card. We’re going to look at the undercard, and I want to apologize to my regular readers in advance that my articles will not be at their normal standard, as I have not been feeling well. It’s a shame that it has to happen on such an important race weekend. I will try best to shoulder through it. Here, we look at the Stephens, at a seven furlong distance that I always find fascinating in HRP as it seems as there are some horses who do not want to race a furlong more or a furlong less, yet thrive at this distance. It seems to be that it happens here at this distance more then any other. Here is our field of eight!
#1- Pie Of The Tiger (John Henry, ridden R J Albarado)- This gelding has a catchy name, but will need to channel in his inner rocky, because he has never run at this level before. Certainly, it’s catchy plot and theme waiting to happen, isn’t it? He was claimed back in September for $20.000, and has run four times for John Henry, which just one win, coming in his last start. It’s an eye-opening race time, but it was at 113 pounds, and he carries nine more today.
#2- Superq (Establo Pichon, ridden by J L Ortiz)- Been running in several $50.000 ungraded stakes lately, and he finally picked up a win in one of them, running this exact distance at the CT bullring, and it was against WV-breds in the Confucious Say Stakes. While I understand that you need to take the shot like this, I would like to see more consistency from him in those races. His effort at HOU two back is a little more concerning. At the Confucious Stakes, he carried 117 pounds while every other horse carried 123 or 125.
#3- Kiss The Snake (Luz International, ridden by C P DeCarlo)- I’m one of the biggest fans out there of his sire, Snakie. Certainly, this is one that should be looked at by anyone. Kiss The Snake is another top of the line foal that he has produced, having one three out of his last four. The most recent win was the ungraded Woodstock Stakes at WO, and he did not need the weight allowance that the two to his inside in the starting gate needed in their wins. He’s definitely in the best form of his career right now.
#4- Socraties (Blushing Meadows, ridden by K J Desormeaux)- The trainer had huge aspirations for him early this year, running him in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial as his stake debut, and that did not go very well. He was not deterred by that, but did drop Socraties slightly to the Grade 3 Day Mile at CD, and he picked up a win against some pretty good competition, such as Indiana Jones. His SRF numbers improve race after race, and if that happens again here, then he should be considered one of the favorites.
#5- Noble Crusader (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- One of two that Mb will bring to the starting gate as he looks to cross the stake off the list of ones that he has not won yet. Noble Crusader gives him an excellent chance to do that, as it looks like either he or stablemate Sonar are the ones to beat in this race. I’ve gotten a good look at several of his starts this year, and it is no fluke that he has won six of his eight career starts, including two graded wins, and the $300.000 RP Springboard Mile on top of that. He’s won going shorter, and going longer, so I have no concerns about him never running exactly seven before.
#6- Clash Study (Smokey Stover, ridden by R Bejarano)- This Gsin gelding comes into the race on a three race winning streak, with the most recent race being the most impressive of them. That was a triumph in the $200.000 Lang Stakes at PIM, his first stake win of any sort, earning a career high 99 SRF in the process. He’s never tried graded company before, but has earned this chances a poses a big threat to the field here. I like his consistency, finishing ITM in nine of his eleven starts, and if you throw out his debut race, he’s never been lower the fourth. Be watching for him!
#7- Pip Pip Hooray (Gdp Inc, ridden by J R Leparoux)- Claimed for $50.000 from Heavens Own in December, Pip Pip Hooray has really seen his career advance while running in the Gdp Inc silks. Since the claim, he has been running at the stake level, and two races ago, he would run second in the Grade 3 Bay Shore, a seven furlong event at AQU. After that, he was dropped down into the $50.000 Governors Stake at EMD, and he would pick up the win. With that behind him, he is ready to take on better competition again.
#8- Sonar (Mb Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- The second of two very formidable entries that Mb Stables brings to this race, and I would love to know which one of these two that he thinks would beat the other, before the race. Noble Crusader is 6-for-8, Sonar is 6-for-9. Three of them are stake wins, the most recent being the first graded event that he’d win, the Grade 3 Barrera at SA, which is a seven furlong event. Also had a near miss in the Grade 2 San Vicente, being edged by Flightwing Commander but was just ahead of Slither in that race. We’ll see how it goes, but the Mb exacta looks promising.