Vegso Racing Stable’s multiple graded stakes winner Officiating will look to return to winning form in the $150,000 Runhappy Stakes (G3), a six-furlong sprint for older horses, at Belmont Park May 14.
Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., the 4-year-old Blame colt romped to a 5 1/2-length victory at Aqueduct Racetrack in the Tom Fool Handicap (G3) March 5 over returning rival Chateau but faltered to fourth last out in the six-furlong NYRABETS Sprint Stakes March 27 at Tampa Bay Downs.
“I think I ran him back a little too quick last time in that Florida-bred race at Tampa,” Joseph said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back to New York where he ran good last time and hopefully he’ll follow suit again.”
Meanwhile, Michael Dubb’s Chateau is in search of his first win at Belmont.
Trained by Rob Atras, the 7-year-old Flat Out gelding set the pace in last year’s Runhappy and stayed on strong to finish second, 3 1/4 lengths back of Firenze Fire .
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The dark bay made the grade last March in the Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct and has hit the board in five-of-seven starts since, including a score in the six-furlong Gravesend Stakes in December at Aqueduct.
Chateau, who will be racing from a two-month layoff out of the Tom Fool, tried seven furlongs when fourth in the Carter Handicap (G1) last April at the Big A, but Atras said it has been difficult finding suitable recently spots while trying to keep the hard-trying dark bay at six furlongs.
Chateau breezed a bullet half-mile in :48.01 Sunday over a Belmont dirt training track rated muddy.
“He worked really well,” Atras said. “We worked after the break and the track was back-raked, but it wasn’t that bad. I was able to put a good work into him, and I was really happy with the way he went.”
Atras could also saddle Sanford J. Goldfarb, Alan Kahn, Estate of Ira Davis, and Samuel Abraham’s Mr Phil for his stakes debut.
Atras haltered the 5-year-old Mr Speaker gelding for $32,000 out of a runner-up effort in a six-furlong sprint on Feb. 27 at the Big A. He is 2-for-2 since, taking a pair of allowance optional claiming sprints at Aqueduct in gate-to-wire fashion.
Atras said Mr Phil could scratch from Saturday’s test in favor of an allowance spot next week at Belmont.
Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin Hilbert, and Thomas O’Keefe’s Drafted enters from a fifth-place finish last out in the Carter Handicap.
The 8-year-old Field Commission gelding posted a 4 1/2-length score in the seven-furlong Toboggan Stakes (G3) in February at Aqueduct.
The well-traveled Drafted made a winning debut in 2016 at Keeneland ahead of stakes efforts at Ascot and Del Mar. He competed in Dubai from 2017 through 2020, capturing a pair of group 3 wins for conditioner Doug Watson at Meydan Racecourse, before returning to North America in November 2020 with David Duggan.
Meanwhile, Bella Sofia will make her anticipated 4-year-old debut in a familiar place, returning to the track where she broke her maiden last year when competing as part of a five-horse field in the $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap (G3) for fillies and mares 4- years-old and up sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on Belmont Park’s main track.
Bella Sofia wins the 2021 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park
Bella Sofia will be making her first appearance since running fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) in November at Del Mar. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said the Vagrancy will hopefully be the start of another campaign that culminates in a Breeders’ Cup appearance, with this year’s edition held at Keeneland Nov. 4-5.
“We’re just hoping she shows the same ability coming out of this race that she showed last year,” Rodriguez said.
Following her Breeders’ Cup effort in California, Bella Sofia was given a break and will look to make her seasonal debut a strong one, drawing post 5 and carrying top weight of 123 pounds with Luis Saez aboard.
Team D and Madaket Stables’ Miss Brazil returned off her own long layoff last out, besting allowance optional claimers April 22 in a six-furlong sprint at Aqueduct for trainer Tony Dutrow.
The 4-year-old Palace Mali bay, who ran third in the Jersey Girl Stakes despite bursting through the front of the gate and needing to be reloaded, registered a second-place finish to grade 1 winner Search Results in the 2021 Busher Invitational Stakes and won last year’s Ruthless Stakes.
Miss Brazil will be ridden by Eric Cancel from post 4.
Sanford and Irwin Goldfarb and Nice Guys Stables’ New York-bred Kept Waiting made a strong account of herself in her graded stakes debut, finishing second to Glass Ceiling in the Distaff Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct, going seven furlongs April 9.
Kendrick Carmouche will ride Kept Waiting from post 3.
Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Frank’s Rockette and Flying P Stable’s Assertive Style complete the field.
Entries: Runhappy S. (G3)
Belmont Park, Saturday, May 14, 2022, Race 5
- Grade III
- 4 yo’s & up
- 3:06 PM (local)
Entries: Vagrancy H. (G3)
Belmont Park, Saturday, May 14, 2022, Race 3
- Grade III
- 6 1/2f
- 4 yo’s & up Fillies and Mares
- 2:05 PM (local)