Multiple graded-stakes winner Za Approval heads a field of eight entered for the $150,000 Forbidden Apple, the first of two turf stakes on an Independence Day card at Belmont Park today with a special first-race post time of 3 p.m.
Joining the Forbidden Apple, which will be run as race seven, is the $100,000 Perfect Sting for fillies and mares, also at one mile on the Widener Turf Course. Post time for the Perfect Sting is approximately 7:08 p.m.
Mechanicville native Chad Brown will saddle one of the co-favorites in the Perfect Sting, hoping 4-year-old Waterway Run returns to the form that resulted in a victory in the Beaugay.
Waterway Run made an impressive North American debut in February at Gulfstream Park, rallying wide to finish second by a neck in an optional claimer. Subsequently second in the Grade III Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs, the Arch filly was a game winner of the Beaugay in May before finishing sixth, beaten 23⁄4 lengths, in the Grade I Just a Game in June at Belmont.
“She got a good trip last time out, but was outfinished the last eighth of a mile,” said Brown of Waterway Run, 5-2 on the morning line. “We’ll regroup in this listed stakes, and go on from there.”
Jose Lezcano will be on Waterway Run.
Waterway Run’s main competition should come from Orion Moon, who also began her career in Europe and is 2-2-0 in five American starts, taking an allowance at Belmont and an optional claimer at Saratoga in her first two stateside appearances.
Orion Moon, which will be ridden by Junor Alvarado, is listed at 3-1 on the morning line,
Also expected to attract support are the Todd Pletcher-trained Alaura Michelle, most recently third in the Intercontinental Stakes on June 8, and Baffle Me, who closed out 2013 with a win in the South Beach at Gulfstream, but who is winless in two starts this year.
First or second in all but one of eight starts last year, including victories in the Grade III Appleton, the Grade III Knickerbocker and the Grade III Red Bank, along with a rousing second to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, the 6-year-old Za Approval was given a class break in the Grade III Poker on May 26 at Belmont, but flattened out at the end to finish third, beaten 4 3⁄4 lengths as the 4-5 favorite.
His connections, however, are encouraged by his subsequent training.
“He has worked a touch better [since the Poker],” said Lorieul. “Physically, I think he has improved a little bit. He doesn’t seem to have exactly the same form as last year, but we are just trying to get him back to the winning stage.”
Joel Rosario will be aboard the 7-5 morning-line favorite.
New York-bred Kharafa goes in search of his second straight stakes win in the Forbidden Apple, having taken the Kingston on May 31 at Belmont. While most of his victories have come in restricted company, the 5-year-old Kitalfa gelding also owns two wins in open company, including a victory in the Three Coins Up at Aqueduct Racetrack to close out his 2013 campaign.
Shadwell Stable’s Sayaad makes his first start of 2014 in the Forbidden Apple, having closed out his sophomore season a pair of front-running wins, including the Dance Life at Saratoga.
Stars & Stripes
Belmont Park will host its inaugural Stars & Stripes Day, celebrating Independence Day, on Saturday
The holiday weekend extravaganza will include a pair of seven-figure contests — the Grade I, $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational and the Grade I, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational. Both races are 1 1⁄4-mile turf races for 3-year-olds, with the Oaks restricted to fillies. Also on the card are the Grade II Suburban Handicap, the Grade III Belmont Sprint Championship and the Grade II Dwyer. The Suburban Handicap will be contested at the classic distance of 1 1⁄4 miles for the first time since 2009.
Bobby’s Kitten, trained by Brown for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, will try to go 1 1⁄4 miles for the first time in his career in the Suburban. In 2013, the bay colt won the Grade III Pilgrim at Belmont by 6 1⁄4 lengths, an effort that landed him the role of favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, in which he finished third. The son of Kitten’s Joy won his 2014 debut, then subsequently finished 12th in the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland before returning to form in the Penn Mile, which he won by 23⁄4 lengths.
“He’s coming into the race good,” said Brown. “He came out of the Penn Mile well, and he’s had three breezes since. The distance is a question mark, but he’s bred to do it.”