OK, let’s try this again.
Tonalist was the 8-5 betting favorite to go 5-for-5 on his favorite track, Belmont Park, last time out in the Met Mile, but Honor Code took off like a rocket at the eighth pole to win by 3 3⁄4 lengths.
That didn’t do much to diminish Tonalist’s standing at Belmont, where he’s 3-5 on the morning line against five rivals for the Grade II Suburban Handicap on Saturday’s stakes-studded card.
Billed as the Stars and Stripes Festival, the New York Racing Association is offering six stakes with purses totaling $3.8 million, including the turf stakes for 3-year-olds, the Belmont Derby Invitational and Belmont Oaks Invitational.
The Chad Brown-trained Lady Eli, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, will attempt to remain undefeated in the $1 million Oaks, which will be part of a live broadcast on NBC from 5-6 p.m., along with the Suburban.
For the mile-and-a-quarter Suburban, trainer Christophe Clement is opting to take the blinkers off Tonalist, who spoiled California Chrome’s Triple Chrome bid last year.
“He wore the blinkers for the Westchester and the Met Mile, and he was very sharp [early],” trainer Clement told the New York Racing Association. “At a mile and a quarter, he doesn’t need to be that sharp.”
Lady Eli started her career winning by a nose at Saratoga. She has raced twice in 2015, winning the Grade III Appalachian at Keeneland and the Wonder Again at Belmont.
“There’s always some pressure when you have an undefeated horse; you’d like to keep it going,” Brown told NYRA. “She’s given us every indication in the morning that she’s going to continue to run her ‘A’ race, but as she goes on, the races are always going to get harder.”
It’s a measure of how deep the field is for the Oaks that Lady Eli is 2-1 despite a 5-for-5 career record that includes the Breeders’ Cup.
Starlight Racing, whose managing partners are Jack Wolf and Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg, has long shot Itsonlyactingdad, who was named by minority partner Chris Mara after his daughters.
Mara, the New York Giants vice president of player personnel, is father to Kate and Rooney Mara of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” fame.
The $1.25 million Belmont Derby has drawn a field of nine that includes Kentucky Derby 12th-place finisher Bolo, who is a slight favorite at 7-2 over Grade II American Turf winner Divisidero, at 4-1.
The Sprint Championship features 8-5 favorite Private Zone, who won the Grade I Cigar Mile and Vosburgh last year and was third to Honor Code and Tonalist in the Met Mile. Among those he’ll face is King’s Bishop winner The Big Beast.
The Dwyer came up tough, with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red, two-time Grade II winner Blofeld and impressive allowance winner Speightster in the seven-horse field.
This will be Texas Red’s first race since getting knocked off the Triple Crown trail with an injury. He last raced on Feb. 1, when he lost by a neck to Lord Nelson in the San Vicente.
Also on the undercard, the New York-bred Samraat will make his first start in over a year in the fourth race, an allowance. He was injured at Saratoga while training for the Jim Dandy.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be at Finger Lakes today to ride Temper Mint Patty in the New York Oaks and Ostrolenka in the New York Derby, the second leg of the Big Apple Triple.
Ostrolenka won the Mike Lee at Belmont and, with a win today, would have a shot at a $250,000 Big Apple Triple bonus in the Albany at Saratoga on Aug. 28. . . .
Plate Trial winner Danish Dynaformer is the 3-1 favorite for Sunday’s Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
The 14-horse Queen’s Plate lost a top contender Thursday morning when Conquest Curlinate suffered a minor injury during training when he had to check behind a slowing horse. . . .
Sunday’s Grade I United Nations at Monmouth has drawn a field that includes champion Main Sequence, Twilight Eclipse, Big Blue Kitten and Imagining. . . .
Tonasah, the StarLadies Racing filly who bolted before the Astoria at Belmont on June 4 and eluded outriders for eight minutes before being caught, finally made her career debut in the fourth at Belmont on Thursday and by 5 1⁄2 lengths.
The ease of the victory indicates that Tonasah could be a candidate for the Schuylerville on opening day of the Saratoga Race Course meet. The StarLadies co-managing partners are Barbara Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Lori Wolf.
“I would think so,” Wolf said of the Schuylerville, “but that’s up to the boss man [trainer Todd Pletcher].”
Trainer Steve Asmussen is being sued by the U.S. Labor Department, which alleges his stable didn’t pay overtime since at least 2012 to grooms and hot walkers who worked more than 40 hours in a week.
The federal lawsuit filed last week in Louisville accuses Asmussen and KDE Equine of violating federal wage law and also says two employees were improperly treated as exempt from overtime. The lawsuit seeks back wages and contends the stable didn’t keep proper wage and hour records.
Asmussen’s lawyer, Clark Brewster, says his client is confident the regulations were met and no one was underpaid.