The $700,000, Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes serves as a co-feature of a loaded Stars and Stripes Racing Festival card Saturday at Belmont Park, sharing the turf spotlight with the $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes.
Chad Brown has won this race five times, including three victories since it was renamed the Belmont Oaks in 2014 after previously being held as the Garden City Stakes.
A race that has become very popular with European trainers, the Belmont Oaks drew five entrants shipping over from Europe, with Concert Hall the tepid favorite for two-time Belmont Oaks-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien. There is value up and down the list of entries if you have a strong opinion in the Belmont Oaks, so without further ado let’s take a closer look.
1. McKulick (6-1 morning-line odds): This filly by Frankel is one of three entrants from the potent barn of Chad Brown, a four-time winner of the Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer, and on paper she’s the least accomplished of the trio. She has finished second in a pair of graded stakes this year and top jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. clicks with Brown at a 26% clip, so McKulick looks like a viable win candidate with a small improvement.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Chad Brown
2. Cairo Memories (12-1): California invader ships in to New York off a pair of open-length victories at Santa Anita Park in the spring, and she figures to vie for the lead with European shipper Agartha. Given the presence of three Chad Brown runners and several fillies from top barns across the Atlantic, Cairo Memories could be a bit overlooked and that would be a mistake as she’s won four of her five career starts on the grass.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith; TRAINER: Bob Hess Jr.
3. Haughty (5-1): This Chad Brown-trained Empire Maker filly has won three of four with her only defeat coming by less than a length in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Coming off a dominant 4 ¾-length score in the Penn Oaks June 3 in her 4-year-old debut, Haughty figures to vie for favoritism in a deep, talented field. Brown and jockey Flavien Prat win at a 30% rate, so it would be a shock if she didn’t run well.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Chad Brown
4. With The Moonlight (6-1): Trainer Charlie Appleby absolutely dominated in the U.S. in 2021 when he shipped horses over from Europe, so it would be wise to give this one a close look. She enters off an unplaced finish in an English classic race, running last of 11 in the Cazoo Oaks, but before that she won a stakes by 4 ¾ lengths at this distance. Perhaps the firmer ground in the U.S. and the shorter distance will help her return to top form.
JOCKEY: Frankie Dettori; TRAINER: Charlie Appleby
5. Consumer Spending (5-1): More Than Ready filly rounds out Chad Brown’s trio of entrants coming off back-to-back stakes wins at Aqueduct in April and on this turf course in June 9 by two lengths in the Grade 2 Wonder Again Stakes. She’s talented and consistent – her only unplaced finish was in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf when beaten by less than two lengths – and profiles as one of many here that looks capable of winning.
JOCKEY: Manny Franco; TRAINER: Chad Brown
6. New Year’s Eve (6-1): This Kitten’s Joy filly pulled off a mild shocker in the Grade 2 Edgewood Stakes Presented by Forcht Bank, winning the May 6 race at Churchill Downs by two lengths at 14.60-1 odds. Ordinarily, you might think you missed your spot to get a decent price on a talented filly who has won three of four starts and comes off a scintillating win. But considering the depth and talent in this field, the price should be solid again for her backers and she’ll be flying late.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Brendan Walsh
7. Hot Queen (20-1): Although this filly by Recorder is a Group 3-placed stakes winner in France, she’s facing a significant challenge here in terms of quality of opposition and distance in her first try stretching out beyond 1 1/8 miles. She faded late at 1 1/8 miles in the Group 3 in Prix Vanteaux two starts back. Perhaps the firmer ground in the U.S. will elevate her significantly, but I prefer others in the Belmont Oaks.
JOCKEY: Stephane Pasquier; TRAINER: Pia Brandt
8. Know Thyself (20-1): Know Thyself passed Hot Queen in the closing stages of the aforementioned Prix Vanteaux, and unlike that familiar rival this filly by Galileo should thrive at this 1 ¼-mile distance. She too could get a lift from the firmer ground in the U.S. as all five of her races have come on good to soft or soft turf, and she’s eligible to improve in her fourth start of the year and sixth overall. Very interested at the right price.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux; TRAINER: Francis-Henri Graffard
9. Agartha (10-1): She has never competed in a race longer than a mile and faded late most recently after setting the pace in the Tattersall Irish One Thousand Guineas. She’s held her own against elite competition as a Group 2 winner in Ireland who came just three-quarters of a length short of a Group 1 win in the 2021 Moyglare Stud Stakes. Agartha should be prominent early, but I’m concerned about her ability to stick around late.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Joseph O’Brien
10. Concert Hall (3-1): The all-world tandem of trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore will partner with group stakes winner Concert Hall after teaming to win this race in 2018 with Athena and last year with Santa Barbara. This Dubawi filly out of Group 1 winner Was finished fourth in the Group 1 Cazoo Oaks June 3 and most recently ran fourth in a Group 1 in Ireland on June 26.
JOCKEY: Ryan Moore; TRAINER: Aidan O’Brien
The Pick: New Year’s Eve
Live Longshot: Know Thyself