The BEL Derby Invitational May Be A Classic

The BEL Derby Invitational (Grade 1)- $1,200.000 Purse
BEL- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and One Quarter on the Inner Turf
July 7, 2018

This Saturday, we’ll have one of the most entertaining turf races of the summer taking place at BEL, for the 16th running of the Grade 1 BEL Derby Invitational. It is a race that has produced top BC Turf contenders and winners, and we’ll get another glimpse at the next crop of turf starts that hope to find their way to the big race later this year. The list of past winners serves as a great reminder of who some of the past turf stars has been, and the most recent winner, Clockwork Chai, is a horse that everyone here would like to follow in the footsteps of. He’d also win the BC Turf, as did one of the 2014 co-winners, Ashkalani. Mb Stables has won the race in two of the last three years, and Ken Allen is also a two-time winner, doing so in consecutive years in 2009 and 2010. With such a large purse on the line, it comes as no surprise to see the starting gate full, and this race looks as though it is going to be exceptionally competitive. After all, in two of the last four years, there have been dead heats for the win. Enjoy it! Here’s the field!

#1- Grayte King (Lemax Farms, ridden by R Maragh)- Began his career for Gdp Inc, and was a productive sort, hitting the board in six out of seven races, with the other being a check-earning fourth place run. The races were mostly modest in nature, until the last one of that stretch, which was a win in the $125.000 Cutler Bay. A week later, he was sold to Lemax for $350.000 in a sale who’s timing looks to be to try to get as much when the value seems the highest. However, Lemax has seen more potential value, but has not gotten the results. His last start came on soft turf right here for the Pennine Ridge last month. He will hope for better weather today.

#2- Gene Chandler (John Henry, ridden by K J Desormeaux)- Caught the attention of mostly everyone while running for Double Cross Ranch when he won the Grade 1 FL Derby. He had a great spring, as the FL Derby followed a win in the Mine That Bird Derby, which were quite a career advancement. In the KYD, however, Gene Chandler was not able to keep the momentum, and only defeated one horse. Double Cross Ranch kept him around for a bit after that, but did not send him back to the track, and in late June, he was sold to John Henry for $300.000. He is 2-for-3 on the turf in his career, but has never faced this type of opposition on the grass. However, we can be optimistic on how he has stepped up to challenges thanks to his FL Derby effort. Let’s see how he fares in the new silks!

#3- Cyclonic Master (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by J L Ortiz)- After an uneventful debut, then a geld, the trainer was full of confidence in this one to send him out there as a maiden for the Grade 3 Day Mile Stakes. He’d pick up the win, earning him a distinction of being one of the rare ones (and it is rare on here, we just remember the ones who do it more then the ones who don’t), to break his maiden in such a race. There has always been hope with this one, as he sold unraced initially for a $200.000 price tag. He goes back to the turf, like he did in his debut, here, and has strong works leading into the race. Definitely one to watch, not just here, but going forward.

#4- Siberian Prince (Sir Daniel Martin, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- Last November, Siberian Prince would win the BC Juvenile Turf, so naturally he has been on the radar for this season. Despite that win, the trainer spent much of the early season chasing the KYD, and the results were simply not there. Now, he has back where he has been successful, with two wins in four turf starts since the TC hunt was wisely called off. Most recently, he would win the Grade 2 Wise Dan at CD. This will be his third start in five weeks, which in itself is not a terrible thing, but the competition he sees here is well rested across the board.

#5- Early Retirement (Mb Stables, ridden by A A Gallardo)- While some other trainers here might wish the trainer would live up to the name of this horse, Mb Stables is very much here to stay. He has two in this field, and while I am attracted to his other one a little more, it often happens that the trainer wins with the one I didn’t pick of his. The Decima gelding also broke his maiden in a stake, back in October, though against ON-breds. Only recently has he taken on the graded level, and with a pair of seconds in them, his form is good. He may also like the longer distance. So perhaps it will happen again that he wins with his entry that I don’t pick.

#6- Nowhere Man (Smokey Stover, ridden by R Bejarano)- The gelding by Keyed Up has gone back and forth between the grass and the main dirt thus far in his career. His four wins are split evenly between the two surfaces, and his most impressive win was as a two year old, in capturing the Grade 2 Nashua. He’d be gelded on New Years Eve in hopes of continuing that form into the year, and he’s been fine in 2018, though missing that result that will grab your attention. Disappointed many as the favorite here for the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge on soft turf, but watch out if its firm (and it should be), because recent works are blazing, especially one on June 18th.

#7- Nitemare (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by J K Court)- This will be a homecoming for the Mr Creepy gelding since he was sold unraced by D J C Racing Stables to Smokey Stover last year. He has raced exclusively for Smokey Stover, but a recent transaction finds Nitemate back with D J C. This will be their first race together, but success was a common thing when he ran under the Smokey Stover colors. He’s won four of 11, run in the BC Turf, and comes off a win at the Grade 2 MTH stakes. Since appearing in the BC, Nitemare has been in the money each and every time. Speed figures are very consistent, as he likes to throw out 93’s, 95’s, and 97’s, but nothing in between. If he is at his best, a 97 could probably do it, but this might be the time to find a 99. He could do it.

#8- Call Me Spanish (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by R J Albarado)- The trainer cannot be found on the list of past winners for the race, and given their tremendous history on the grass, you have to think this is a race the trainer wants pretty badly. He’ll have two entries in the field, and I most intrigued by this one. He comes off a win in the $200.000 Snow Chief against three other CA-breds, in what was their first race together. Call Me Spanish had been with Sir Daniel Martin previously, and with that trainer there was not as much success. Maxmillion can find that untapped potential, and he may have in the Snow Chief, but the field there was not particularly impressive.

#9- Name Drop (Mb Stables, ridden by L H Colon)- If we stay firm on race day, it will be the first time in four races that Name Drop has not run on an off track. Not sure if that’s good news or bad news, because he seemed to like the off going, winning all three of those races. The highlight of the stretch was the last result, taking the $500.000 Grade 2 PEN Mile. Before that, he won the Grade 2 American Turf at CD. On dry tracks, you have to go back a bit to even find a race to look at, but he ran well in them, too, they were just not against the strongest competition. Rain is expected Friday, so maybe he’ll hope that gets postponed to Saturday.

#10- People Doubted (Aml Racing, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- This one became available for sale due to the restrictions placed on Mb Stables’ for the TC, and was picked up for a $400.000 price tag by Aml Racing. The new trainer did not just immediately place him into the KYD, however, as some further add testing was done, and we went into the race with blinkers, earning a fourth place finish. Now, another change is made as he moves to the grass, where he will race for the second time in his career. It would be a very interesting development if People Doubted emerged a turf superstar, and that road can begin here. Works are strong, especially one on June 9th. He knows how to finish near the front, and I really like that about him.

#11- Ifitsfreeitsforme (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by E Maldonado)- Despite being cumbersome to keep typing out, Ifitsfreeitsforme has been successful on the race track, with four wins and six top-two finishes in his ten career starts. They haven’t been free, and he wasn’t either back in November when he was acquired in private sales for $85.000. Here, the Scorpion King gelding will take on the toughest competition that he has ever seen, and he has earned the chance. His signature win to date is the Grade 3 Transylvania, where he defeated Call Me Spanish, who was not a stablemate then, as well as Nitemare.

#12- No Chill (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by J R Velazquez)- The breeding on this one is pretty strong, as he is by Cherokee Sunset, and also out of a mare that has produced several very good horses in her time. He will not be able to carry on that blood, however, as he races here as gelding, and from one of the top breeding barns in the game, I’m guessing that was a pretty tough decision to have to make. No Chill had a strong two year old season, including one FL Sire Series win and later the $200.000 Juvenile Stallion Stakes. Then, the results just stopped coming his way. The TC chase did him in, but he did run in the BEL last month. Now, not only is he a first time gelding, he tries the turf for the first time. We’ll find our Saturday if these moves work out.

#13- Great Bounty (Drabfantasy, ridden by D E Centeno)- This lightly raced horse will be making just the seventh start of his career. Two of them have been wins, including his most recent start, the $125.000 Plate Trial Stakes against four other Canadians. Winning the trial did not send him to the Queens Plate however, and instead sends him here, back on the grass where he had been in every other race of his career. Seems as though that is the best move for him, and he is working well coming into the race. Unfortunately, he is an undesirable spot in the starting gate.

#14- Regret Nothing (Estero Farms, ridden by F Pennington)- I was beginning to wonder when we were going to see the great F Pennington on one of these horses. The KYD and KYO winning jockey gets to run in the Estero Farms silks, just like he did so well with Pretty Ferro. While the trainer, and the jockey were winning the KYD, Regret Nothing was also part of the field, and finished in the middle of the field. He had a good prep race season, and winning the TAM Derby got him in the big race. With that behind him, he returns to the grass where he performed well as a two year old. He is also another one in here who has seen nothing but wet tracks in his last three starts. Can he do it from the outside? Pennington has done it for Estero Farms before.

Prediction: 10-7-9-14 (But there are no bad picks in a very strong field)

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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