Some of the West Coast’s finest thoroughbreds ventured East for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on Saturday, and they made themselves very much at home at Belmont Park.
Songbird enjoyed a triumphant 4-year-old debut under a hand ride from Mike Smith in the $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes, and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert delivered with favorites in all four stakes races he entered with Smith aboard each time.
If there was a bittersweet element to the afternoon for West Coast fans, it involved Gormley’s fourth-place finish behind victorious Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes. Gormley, the Santa Anita Derby winner, was well positioned throughout for jockey Victor Espinoza before his mind apparently wandered and he failed to deliver a knockout punch.
“Victor said he was still looking around a little,” trainer John Shirreffs said. “He wasn’t 100% focused.”
Jerry Hollendorfer, her trainer, “but she’d have to be up there on anybody’s list.”
Mor Spirit made the $1.2-million Metropolitan Handicap look easy with an explosive move that dusted Sharp Azteca by 6 ¼ lengths. He completed the mile in a torrid 1:33.71.
Four for four at racing’s highest level?
“It’s a rare feat, what we did today,” Baffert