Last year’s Belmont Stakes one-two-three will meet again on Saturday in the $200,000 Suburban Stakes after Sir Winston, Tacitus and Joevia were all confirmed.
The Mark Casse-trained Sir Winston won the closing leg of the Triple Crown in 2019, seeing off the challenges of Tacitus and Joevia to take the 1m4f Classic race.
Gregg Sacco, who trains Joevia, admits it is something of an anomaly that the trio are back at Belmont for another showdown.
“After a race like the Belmont Stakes, horses take different routes,” said Sacco, “and this year it brought us all together again.”
Sir Winston grabbed the $800,000 Belmont first prize last year after crossing the line with a length in hand on Tacitus, with Joevia back in third spot, surprising those who had placed their bets on the Belmont Stakes horses.
Joel Rosario (Sir Winston) and Jose Ortiz (Joevia) are back for more on their mounts, while John Velazquez is due to the get the leg up on Tacitus in place of Jose Ortiz; the former having partnered Intrepid Heart to an eighth-place finish in the Belmont last year.
Locally-trained contenders Mr. Buff and Moretti are amongst the main dangers in a field of eight for the re-engaging trio, while Just Whistle is also an interesting player and likely outsiders Parsimony and Forewarned complete the field.
Sir Winston has had a mixed time since that win in the Belmont, with ankle troubles side-lining him before a win at Aqueduct in January. Trainer Casse then had to deal with his charge making the journey to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup in March, only for the race to be canceled once Covid-19 struck.
He was no match for Todd Pletcher’s Moretti back at Belmont since and his trainer openly admits they have reached a crossroads now, despite his belief the sloppy track last time was not in his favour.
“I hope he’ll like the mile and a quarter, and hopefully there will be some speed in there,” Casse said.
“He’s proven he likes Belmont, at least Belmont on a dry track, so we’re going to throw out the slop race [last time behind Moretti], even though I thought it was a good effort. There wasn’t much ground being made up in any race that day.
“This effort will be the determining factor in what we do with him. Do we move forward, or do we regroup and look for something easier to give him confidence?”
The Bill Mott-trained Tacitus hasn’t won since the spring of 2019 but he has placed in Grade 1 company four times in his past seven starts, offering hope he’ll be very competitive in this easier grade.
Joevia meanwhile underwent surgery for a displaced palate and is deemed likely to improve from his fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes last month.
“He’s doing very well now,” trainer Sacco said. “He got fat on us after the surgery, and he needed that last race. He came out of it well and put in two good works since then, and I’m hoping he can take a step forward Saturday.”