Force the Pass, Highland Reel highlight Secretariat; The Pizza Man likely to bypass St. Leger for Million

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 12th, 2015

Force the Pass, who surged to the fore of the U.S. sophomore turf division with victories in the Penn Mile (G3) and Belmont Derby (G1), will receive a stiff international challenge when he lines up for Saturday’s $450,000 Secretariat (G1) at Arlington.

After earning his first graded tally with a head decision in the Penn Mile, Force the Pass delivered a career-best performance in the July 4 Belmont Derby, scoring by a comfortable 3 ¾-length margin. Joel Rosario retains the mount on the Alan Goldberg-trained son of Speightstown and Force the Pass is a slight 2-1 favorite on the morning line among seven rivals in the 1 ¼-mile event for three-year-olds.

Highland Reel, the 5-2 second choice, will take some beating in his U.S. bow. Owned by Coolmore and trained by Aidan O’Brien, the Galileo colt recorded a good second in the French Derby (Fr-G1) three back and exits a convincing victory in the July 29 Gordon (Eng-G3), his second group stakes tally in seven starts. He’ll be piloted by Seamie Heffernan and receives first-time Lasix.

Unbeaten Goldstream, an easy three-length winner of the Italian Derby (Ity-G2) last out, is another overseas raider of note. Listed at 9-2 with jockey Brenton Avdulla, the bay son of Martino Alonso is trained by Andreas Wohler. War Dispatch, the early 4-1 third choice, also merits serious respect in his first U.S. appearance. The French-based colt from the barn of Jean-Claude Rouget has never finished out of the money in nine starts (6-2-1) and regular rider Ioritz Mendizabal will be in to guide the Group 3 victor.

Rounding out the field are Closing Bell, a respectable fourth in the Belmont Derby for Bill Mott off a maiden win; American Derby (G3) runner-up Crittenden; and Grade 3-placed Granny’s Kitten.

The $350,000 American St. Leger (G3), the first of four significant turf stakes on a blockbuster International Festival of Racing program, drew a field of 11 but 3-1 morning line favorite The Pizza Man, the defending champ, is expected to opt out for the Arlington Million (G1).

His defection leaves Hyper, a Grade 2 winner from the Chad Brown stable, and German invader Lucky Speed as the horses to beat. Panama Hat is another international shipper to note.

Roman Approval also merits respect following a neck second The Pizza Man in the July 11 Stars and Stripes (G3) over the Chicago turf and Crucero exits a June 28 upset in the San Juan Capistrano (G3) at Santa Anita.

The $100,000 Pucker Up (G3), a 1 1/8-mile turf affair for three-year-old fillies, serves as an appetizer for the International Festival of Racing. Stakes winners Miss Chatelaine and Prado’s Sweet Ride are leading contenders along with the Grade 2-placed Ahh Chocolate.

Force the Pass winning the Belmont Derby courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography

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