Mask Seeks Rebound in Easy Goer Stakes
It might not offer the spotlight and prestige of the Belmont Stakes, but Saturday’s $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park is a pretty good consolation prize for three-year-olds that weren’t quite good enough to run in the “Test of Champions.”But that’s not to say that one of the eight entrants in the Easy Goer won’t enjoy a high level of success down the road. Last year’s winner, West Coast, picked up two Grade 1 wins later in the season and wound up overshadowing the Triple Crown stars while being voted the champion three-year-old male of 2017.
The horse with the most established star power in the 2018 Easy Goer might be Mask, who has been installed as the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. Trained by , the promising son of Tapit opened his career with two impressive victories, including an easy 6 ¼-length romp in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes going a mile at Gulfstream. Unfortunately, Mask went to the sidelines after that with a minor issue and returned with a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Pat Day Mile (gr. III) at Churchill Downs last month, though that race took place over a sloppy, sealed track that Mask might not have cared for. He'll attempt to get back on the right track in the Easy Goer.
High North, winner of the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn, and Prince Lucky, victorious in Parx Racing’s Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes last December, are the other stakes winners in the Easy Goer field. But bettors might wind up preferring the chances of the up-and-coming Rugbyman, a son of Tapit that crushed a one-mile maiden special weight at Blemont Park last month by 14 lengths. Trained by Graham Motion, Rugbyman will be stepping up sharply in class for the Easy Goer but has the speed and potential to be a major factor in this competitive race.
Shipping in from California for trainer Peter Eurton is Dark Vader, whose most significant run from a class perspective came when he was third in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) back in February. But from a BRIS speed figure perspective, his career-best run came last time out in a Santa Anita allowance race, in which he gamely defeated a quality field that included the next-out stakes winner Take the One O One.
Breaking the Rules, unbeaten in two starts sprinting for trainer Shug McGaughey, will stretch out in distance for the Easy Goer, while Soutache—runner-up in the six-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III)—will be making the same move, though Soutache has won going 8.5 furlongs in the past. Completing the field is Lunar Beauty, a maiden winner at Aqueduct during the winter.
The Easy Goer is the second race of the day, with a post time of 12:11 p.m. Eastern.