The Fourth of July comes with a lot of action on the racetrack in the US. There may not be any baseball today, but there is a hot dog eating contest and a lot of stakes racing. There are a total of 29 stakes events today. If you are looking for the most important, you can find them at Belmont Park. Between 11 scheduled races, there is a total of $1,701,000 on offer at Belmont in New York on Saturday.
The biggest of all is the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap for $500,000. The gate will open on the Met Mile for Race 9, which will be followed by the Manhattan Stakes for $400,000. The running of the Poker Stakes, Suburban Stakes, and Victory Ride Stakes will take place on Saturday. That’s a lot of money tied up into five races at Belmont Park.
The Met Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Grade 1 event. There are some heavyweights in this race that is going to make it a must-watch. Horse racing can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to TV coverage. We are in luck on Saturday, as NBC will cover a portion of the action at Belmont Park today.
The Metropolitan Handicap will be the centerpiece of the broadcast. We have three races covered for you at Belmont Park. Feel free to put them in a multi-bet or straight. I’m not as thrilled about this card as I was during Belmont Stakes day, which we swept with four correct selections, but I think there’s an opportunity here. Head below for our free Belmont Park Daily Double and Pick 3 selections for July 4, 2020.
Race 8 – Poker Stakes
Post Time: 5:13 p.m. EST
Distance: 1 Mile
Our day at Belmont Park will begin with the running of the Poker Stakes (Gr. 3) in Race 8. Its All Relevant and Value Proposition are both horses to watch in this one. They will be lining up in the gate from the outside positions, No. 9 and No. 8. Valid Point, who is getting a big class drop today after running 10th in the Turf Mile Stakes (Gr. 1), will be one to note as well.
Value Proposition was bred in the UK, though all four of his races have been on US soil. He has been a winner throughout his career so far with 3 wins in 4 races. Value Proposition made easy work out of two Allowance Optional Claiming events and a Maiden Special Weight. In his most recent outing, Value Proposition won over Cross Border by a length in an event for a $68,000 purse.
The last time Value Proposition raced in a similar event as this was on June 1, 2019 in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (Gr. 3). It was a huge step up in only the second race of his career. Maybe too far of a class hike at that point. He finished 7th in the $200,000 event. Value Proposition was priced to run much better than that, so it was a disappointment. He’s in better form at this point in his career, though, so expect better.
After dropping back down to an easier level, Value Proposition won over Swamp Rat by a nose to take the top prize out of a $92,000 purse at Saratoga on July 18, 2019. He completed 4 furlongs with times of 49.71, 49.87, and 49.11 seconds in recent workouts. I’d suggest keeping an eye on Value Proposition leading up to post time. He is likely going to be involved in the stretch.
Its All Relevant has been in terrific form recently and has a lot more experience than Value Proposition. However, Its All Relevant is only running if this gets moved to the dirt. He is a winner in 12 of 27 races in his career, and is coming back-to-back wins on March 1 and June 18. In 7 of his previous 9 entries, Its All Relevant has taken a trip to the winner’s circle.
He won by 5 ½ lengths for a $75,000 purse on March 1, and then followed up with another win by 3 lengths for a $68,000 purse on June 18. Those were too easy for him, but this should give him more of a test. It should be a close race between the three ponies I mentioned above. If Its All Revelant’s form from two weeks ago holds, he likely has a big edge on the dirt. However, with the Poker Stakes likely staying on the turf, Value Proposition is the play.
Race 9 – Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap
Post Time: 5:47 p.m. EST
The main event of the day at Belmont Park is the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (Gr. 1) for a hefty purse of $500,000. I am liking the chances of this coming down to McKinzie and Vekoma. You have two horses in very good form with McKinzie and Vekoma. Other than the Kentucky Derby, Vekoma has played a big role in all of his races.
He’s 5 for 7 and coming off back-to-back wins in the Sir Shackleton Stakes (Black Type) and Runhappy Carter Handicap (Gr. 1) on June 6. In the Carter Handicap, Vekoma beat Network Effect in a blowout by 7 ¼ lengths over Network Effect. There wasn’t much competition for Vekoma in that event and he ran clear for an easy win.
In the Kentucky Derby, Vekoma was stuck up against some elite opponents. Vekoma had nothing to give in that one, as he finished 12th to finish well back of the field. Prior to that race, Vekoma won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Gr. 2) by 3 ½ lengths, and then after the Derby won two straight races. Vekoma finished 3rd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (Gr. 3) in the only other loss that Vekoma has experienced.
Bob Baffert’s McKinzie is capable of running with Vekoma. McKinzie has had a heck of career, which includes wins in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (Gr. 1), Sham Stakes (Gr. 3), Pennsylvania Derby (Gr. 1), Malibu Stakes (Gr. 1), Alysheba Stakes (Gr. 2), Whitney Stakes (Gr. 1), and most recently the Triple Bend Stakes (Gr. 2) on June 7. Overall, McKinzie is 8 for 16 in his career, with several close calls in other big events along the way. 2nd in the Met Mile last year, Awesome Again Stakes (Gr. 1), and Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr. 1). He was defeated by ¾ lengths in the 2019 Met Mile.
Baffert had McKinzie in tremendous shape for the Triple Bend Stake a few weeks ago. He won over Fashionably Fast by 1 ½ lengths for the top prize in the $200,000 purse. This was after a disappointing performance in the Saudi Cup on February 29. He’s back to avenge his loss in the Met Mile last year on Saturday at Belmont. I think he’s capable of doing that in what should be an entertaining race.
Race 10 – Manhattan Stakes
Post Time: 6:20 p.m. EST
Distance:1 ¼ Miles
The Manhattan Stakes (Gr. 1) is scheduled to run right after the feature event at Belmont Park on Saturday. $100,000 will be shaved off of this purse, but it’s still a sizable figure of $400,000 of available money in Race 10. This event will take place on the inner turf with 1 ¼ miles of racing. Instilled Regard and Rockemperor must be accounted for on your shortlist. Rockemperor isn’t getting the most respect on the morning-line, but he should get attention.
The young colt is coming off solid performances in the Muniz Memorial Classic Stakes (Gr. 2) and Charles Whittingham Stakes (Gr. 2) on May 23. Those were a couple of tough races and Rockemperor was the favorite going into the Whittingham Stakes. It didn’t work out, as Rockemperor was 2nd at the wire, but was DQ’d and was dropped to 3rd because of interference. That was for a $200,000 purse, so Rockemperor is aiming even higher on Saturday. Despite getting disqualified, he was in good form and should be in the mix today.
Instilled Regard is one of two entries for Chad Brown on Saturday. The other being Rockemperor, so Saturday has the makings of a very good day for him. Instilled Regard is coming off a terrific performance in the Fort Marcy Stakes (Gr. 2) on June 6. He won over Devamani by a neck at the wire.
It was a nice payday for the top prize out of a $150,000 purse. His effort in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (Gr. 1) on January 25 is one of his most impressive runs of all. Despite finishing 3rd, Instilled Regard came just 2 lengths and a head away from winning the million dollar purse. That was incredibly impressive as an underdog, and another outing like that would be more than enough for a win in the Manhattan Stakes.