Belmont Park is much quieter after the festivities of last weekend but the quality action keeps coming in the shape of the G3 Poker Stakes, the highlight of Saturday afternoon at the ‘Big Sandy’, in which the irrepressible Chad Brown bids to continue his lava-hot streak of form with G1-placed Masen and G2 winner Public Sector standing out in a short field.
Grade 3, $250,000, 1m turf, 4yo+
The world’s best turf milers have been strutting their stuff at Royal Ascot this week, the outstanding Baaeed, the tough Coroebus and the progressive Saffron Beach to name but three, but here in the Poker – the feature at Belmont Park on Saturday – we see the potential opposition to those stars when they arrive for the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in November.
The Poker is one of the few Graded turf races on the east coast that Chad Brown has never won, and he seeks to rectify that with two contenders headed by the ex-Irish Masen (6-5), who has adapted magnificently to life Stateside. He hit the ground running fast, going under by just a nose on his US debut when favorite for the G1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland, pressing the pace and then clinging gamely to the lead before being nailed on the line.
He then backed up that style and substance when romping in a three-runner stakes over course and distance, eased down to win by five with Wolfie’s Dynaghost (5-1) beaten almost 23 lengths into third and last, taking his stakes record to zero-for-eight, although he was geared right down when the first two had flown.
Masen is probably running a fair way below his class here and should have most to fear from barnmate Public Sector (5-2), who also holds an entry at Monmouth Park on Saturday. He spots weight all round after three Graded wins last year, notably a close-run thing in the G2 Hill Prince here over a mile-eighth in October, although he hasn’t coped with the elevation to G1 company on his last two starts.
On his 2022 debut Public Sector made no show in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs over a mile-eighth, but today’s class relief will put him back in his comfort zone, and the cutback in distance may help too at a track where he has never finished worse than runner-up in five races.
Last year’s Poker fourth and sixth Sanctuary City (7-2) and Penalty (6-1) have another crack at it, although neither has done anything in the intervening 12 months to suggest they’ll improve on that form. Sanctuary City is riding a nine-race losing streak and was runner-up in a state-bred stakes here over a mile-sixteenth last month, rallying late but never getting near the winner.
Penalty has run only twice since last year’s Poker, fifth and ninth in stakes at Kentucky Downs and this venue over seven furlongs, when he was never sighted. He’s seven now and may not have a lot left in the tank.
2022 Poker Stakes Odds & Prediction
Prediction: Chad Brown has found a good spot for his duo, and the progressive G1 runner-up MASEN – an easy winner last time – can take full advantage of class relief.
|Horse||Jockey||Odds by JazzSports|
|Masen (GB)||Flavien Prat||+120|
|Sanctuary City||Kendrick Carmouche||+350|
|Public Sector (GB)||Jose L. Ortiz||+250|
|Wolfie’s Dynaghost||Luis Saez||+500|
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