Appleby Seeks More New York Success with Silver Knott
Though the Triple Crown prep races are a thing of the past for the 2023 series, prep races are a year-round fixture in the sport. The idea of preparing for a grade 1 stakes in a less challenging event happens frequently and can be seen in a race like the June 3 Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2T) for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park. Saturday's about-1 1/8-mile test on the inner turf course is the perfect springboard for the July 8 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1T) as the top three finishers in the Pennine Ridge earn automatic berths in next month's 1 1/4-mile opening leg of the New York Racing Association's Turf Triple for sophomores. Since 2014, four 3-year-olds have exited the Pennine Ridge and captured the Belmont Derby with two of them registering wins in both stakes. This year's Pennine Ridge figures to produce multiple Belmont Derby contenders with a field of eight in the $200,000 race hoping to punch tickets to the subsequent $750,000 stakes. Leading the way is a horse familiar to fans of the Breeders' Cup. Godolphin's Silver Knott (GB) was last seen on these shores finishing second by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) for trainer Charlie Appleby. Though the son of Lope de Vega (IRE) bred by St Albans Bloodstock was a soundly beaten 11th in the May 6 Two Thousand Guineas Stakes (G1) at Newmarket in his lone start since the World Championships, simply being a member of Appleby's barn merits respect in New York. While Appleby's Warren Point (GB) was fifth as a 3-5 favorite in the May 13 Man o' War Stakes (G1T), the European-based trainer has won with four of his last six New York starters. "His race in the Guineas was not what we expected but he came out of it really well. This is a great spot for the rest of the year. He might have been a bit rusty with the time off. The Guineas is always a tough race to start off your 3-year-old career in," assistant trainer Chris Connett said. "His Breeders' Cup run was huge. You could say he was a little unlucky in that race. It was just a bob of the head of two nice horses. There was no disgrace in running second there. He trained all winter long very well and he's filled out and grown into himself." Uncoupled entries from trainers Todd Pletcher, a three-time Pennine Ridge winner, and Chad Brown top the competition among the seven rivals. Pletcher, seeking a third straight Pennine Ridge victory, will send out KHK Racing's Sharar and LSU Stables' Far Bridge. Far Bridge, an English Channel colt, missed by a nose in the May 6 American Turf Stakes (G2T), suffering his first loss in three career starts. Sharar, a son of Gun Runner, makes his United States debut after winning the $200,000 Jumeirah Derby in Dubai in his last start. Brown, a two-time Pennine Ridge winner, will be represented by Belouni (FR), Congruent, and Kalik. Belouni, a Fast Company (IRE) 3-year-old owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Michael Kisber, and William Rucker, won the April 22 Woodhaven Stakes in his last start and second try since arriving in the U.S. Tami Bobo and Lugamo Racing Stable's Congruent makes his debut for Brown after winning the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on a synthetic surface for trainer Antonio Sano. The son of Tapit has finished no better than third in a trio of turf starts. Kalik, a son of Collected who races for Robert La Penta, e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, and Madaket Stables, enters off successive allowance and maiden wins.