The Wine Steward, My Mane Squeeze headline Belmont Festival

Thursday, June 6th, 2024

The Wine Steward, already an open-company stakes winner, leads the NY-bred contingent at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga. Coady Photography.

Grade 1-placed stakes winner The Wine Steward and Grade 2 winner My Mane Squeeze lead a strong group of New York-breds headed into stakes company during this week’s Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Paradise Farms Corp.’s and David Staudacher’s The Wine Steward, a son of Vino Rosso bred by Sequel Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm and Mark Toothaker, tops the group and runs in Saturday’s headlining Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRABETS. Trained by Mike Maker, The Wine Steward comes off back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and Grade 3 Peter Pan at Aqueduct.

Foaled at Sequel Stallions New York in Hudson, The Wine Steward originally sold for $70,000 to Oldham Bloodstock at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. He was purchased by his current connections for $340,000 at last year’s OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training out of the Sequel Bloodstock consignment.

The Wine Steward will look to join Tiz the Law [2020], Forester [1882], Fenian [1869] and Ruthless [1867] as New York-bred winners of the Belmont Stakes.

Maker said he hopes The Wine Steward can sit off a pace duel in the Belmont before making his run.

“I’d like to see a pace duel develop and us maintain a stalking position,” Maker said. “If there was more of an honest pace last time, he would have appreciated it and maybe would have won it. We will hope for better luck this time. The owner has been very supportive of me and of New York. It would be great to win for them.”

The Wine Steward is the first foal out of the To Honor and Serve mare Call to Service, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Isotherm and stakes-placed winners Gio Game and Giant Game.

The Wine Steward, who drew post four of 10 and is 15-1 on the morning line, is one of six New York-breds entered in stakes during the festival.

My Mane Squeeze also bids for Grade 1 success in Friday’s DK Horse Acorn Stakes against the likes of Kentucky Oaks 1-2 finishers Thorpedo Anna and champion Just F Y I.

Bred and co-owned by William “Buck” Butler and also trained by Maker, My Mane Squeeze comes into the 9-furlong Acorn (lengthened by a furlong and around two turns instead of one when contested at Belmont Park) off a victory in the Grade 2 Eight Belles on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.

My Mane Squeeze, a daughter of Audible also co-owned by WinStar Farm, drew post 5 in the field of nine and is 12-1 on the morning line. She bounced back from an eighth in the Grade 2 Fantasy to win the Eight Belles going 7 furlongs.

“It was a great effort [at Churchill],” Maker said. “I’m happy to see that she turned it around from the debacle at Oaklawn. We’ll hopefully see a true test at two turns. I’ve always had the impression that the further the better for her. I don’t know what set her off at Oaklawn, but hopefully we can cross that out and keep moving forward.”

Foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia and out of the Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama, My Mane Squeeze won three straight New York-bred stakes before venturing into graded company for the first time in the Fantasy.

“From a breeding standpoint, WinStar stands Audible so that would be a plus and Buck [Butler] is from New York and a win would be extra special for him, as well,” Maker said.

R T Racing Stable’s Dominican Thunder, a 2-year-old son of Improbable bred by and foaled at Thirty Year Farm in Saratoga Springs, looks to kick things off early for the New York-bred team in Thursday’s $150,000 Tremont. A first-time starter trained by Jose Jimenez, Dominican Thunder drew post 3 in the field of eight and is 20-1 on the morning line.

Butler is also represented at the festival by his homebred Rotknee, a half-brother to My Mane Squeeze who runs in Saturday’s Grade 2 True North Stakes. The 5-year-old son of Runhappy drew post 2 in the 6 1/2-furlong True North and is 6-1 on the morning line.

Rotknee, also foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, comes off a victory in the Affirmed Success Stakes May 2 at Aqueduct. He also won the Say Florida Sandy Stakes in late January at Aqueduct.

The New York-bred contingent gets another chance at a Grade 1 victory – and a two-pronged challenge at that – when Thin White Duke and Dancing Buck run in Saturday’s $500,000 Jaipur Stakes.

J and N Stable’s and Diamond M Stable’s Dancing Buck, a 6-year-old gelding by War Dancer bred by J & N Stables and foaled at Sundial Farm in Amsterdam, is 3-1 for the 5 ½-furlong turf stakes from post 3. Trained by Michelle Nevin, Dancing Buck won the May 4 Elusive Quality Stakes against open company in his return to his native state last time out at Aqueduct. He’s 8-1 on the morning line.

Thin White Duke won last year’s Harvey Pack Stakes for owners Phil Gleaves, Steve Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard. Trained by David Donk and fifth in the Elusive Quality last time out, the 6-year-old son of Dominus bred by Gleaves drew post 1 for the Jaipur and is 30-1 on the morning line. Thin White Duke was foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs.

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