BROOKLYN HANDICAP | PURSE: $150,000 | GRADE 2 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | 1 1/2 MILES
Denied last year from becoming the first back-to-back winner of the Grade 2, $150,000 Brooklyn Handicap since Waquoit (1987-88), Eldaafer can still make a little history with a second career win in Friday's 1 1/2-mile marathon over one lap of Belmont Park's hallowed oval. Should the six-year-old gelding prove victorious, he would become the first horse to win non-consecutive runnings of the ancient Brooklyn since Triple Crown hero Assault turned the trick in 1947 and 1949.
Despite the two-length setback to Alcomo in last year's Brooklyn, Eldaafer saved his best for late in the 2010 season when taking the Grade 3 Turfway Fall Championship and the Breeders' Cup Marathon, the latter in a 10-1 upset by 1 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. With the 1 3/4-mile Marathon back at Churchill in November, the Brooklyn should once again serve as a useful stepping stone for Eldaafer, who started this year finishing unplaced in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and Pan American Stakes (Grade 3). He enters the Brooklyn following a 4 1/2-length starter allowance score over the turf at Atlantic City.
Drosselmeyer, who upset the Belmont Stakes a year ago this weekend at 13-1, also seems to be on track towards a Breeders' Cup Marathon bid. The Bill Mott charge couldn't keep pace in either the Grade 3 Skip Away Stakes or Challenger S. earlier this year, but stepped up with a gutsy neck victory over Birdrun in the 1 1/4-mile One Count S. at Belmont on May 15.
Birdrun is seeking his first trip to the winner's circle since the November 13 Carl G. Rose Classic, a Florida-bred stakes at Calder where he defeated multiple Grade 2 hero Duke of Mischief, recent winner of the Charles Town Classic (Grade 3).
The Brooklyn field is rounded out by Alma d'Oro, winner of the John B. Campbell H. and Forty Niner S. this season but only fourth in the One Count, and Grade 3 winner Afleet Again, a non-threatening fifth in the One Count last time.
The Grade 3, $100,000 Poker Stakes, a one-mile dash over the Widener turf, has attracted a solid group of six older males including multiple Grade 1 star Court Vision and Grade 2 victor Courageous Cat. Court Vision, who landed the Woodbine Mile last fall, has gone unplaced in four interim starts, most recently finishing ninth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.
The oft-sidelined Courageous Cat has raced only three times since his upset second behind Goldikova in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. Hero of the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes in February 2010 in a blazing time of 1:31 2/5 for a mile, Courageous Cat finished in mid-pack in the Dubai Duty Free (Group 1) the following month. His most recent race occurred in the last October's Shadwell Turf Mile (Grade 1), where he finished third behind two-time grass champ Gio Ponti.
Ex-French handicapper Right One lines up for trainer Christophe Clement having taken both U.S. appearances, including the course-and-distance Island Sun S. by two lengths on May 12. Beau Choix, a multiple listed stakes winner, was second best in the Island Sun as the favorite, while Riviera Cocktail was an even fifth last out in the May 7 Fort Marcy Stakes (Grade 3). Sprint specialist Yield Bogey completes the six-pack.