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Thin White Duke, Big Invasion Rematched In Belmont Turf Sprint – Horse Racing News

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s graded stakes-winner Big Invasion will face a bevy of familiar foes in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Belmont Turf Sprint, a six-furlong outer turf test for 3-year-olds and up, at Belmont at the Big A meet at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park, N.Y.

Trained by Christophe Clement, the 4-year-old Declaration of War colt was a close second last out in a blanket finish when squaring off with a trio of returning rivals in the 5 1/2-furlong Harvey Pack on September 2 at Saratoga Race Course.

With Joel Rosario up, Big Invasion stalked from fourth position but made an early move between rivals to take command at the stretch call. He dueled down the lane with Our Shot but could not hold off the returning Thin White Duke, who prevailed by a neck in a final time of 1:02.18 with Our Shot a head back in third. The pacesetting Dancing Buck, who also returns and will look to defend his title, landed a further three lengths back in fourth.

The Harvey Pack was Big Invasion’s first start since a difficult voyage to Royal Ascot on June 24 where he finished 13th in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee. That effort came while racing off two week’s rest from a rallying runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Jaipur to the reigning Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint-winner Caravel on June 10 at Belmont Park.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call from the inside post, taking the reins for the first time since guiding Big Invasion to a second-out maiden win last February at Gulfstream Park.

“He’s very quick. The problem with him is we’re trying not to be too quick. Just keep him on the bridle and he’ll be fine,” said Clement assistant Christophe Lorieul. “He’ll break and maybe a couple of horses can come around him and he can be stalking, but he can be wherever you want – it’s just a matter of asking him.

“Irad has rode him before and he knows him,” added Lorieul. “He’s not a very difficult horse, but you have to be patient and you have to keep him together.”

Big Invasion made the grade at the Spa in last year’s Grade 3 Quick Call presented by Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation as part of a six-race win streak that included stakes scores in the Texas Glitter at Gulfstream Park, the William Walker at Churchill Downs, the Paradise Creek at Belmont and the Mahony at Saratoga. His last win came in the five-furlong Silks Run in his seasonal debut in March at Gulfstream Park.

Bred in Kentucky by John O’Meara, Big Invasion, out of the Curlin mare Curls in Place, was purchased for $72,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He has banked $674,365 through a record of 13-7-3-1.

David Donk will send out half-siblings Thin White Duke [post 9, Jose Lezcano] for owners Phil Gleaves, Steven Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard and Yes and Yes [post 4, Jose Gomez] for Gleaves, Joseph Straus, Jr. and Hugh Fitzsimons, Jr. Both horses were bred by Gleaves and are out of the Distorted Humor mare Aberdeen Alley.

Thin White Duke, a 5-year-old New York-bred Dominus gelding, has finished third in the last two editions of the Spa’s Grade 3 Troy and sports a ledger of 29-6-4-7 for purse earnings of $682,605.

He captured a pair of state-bred stakes as a juvenile in the Funny Cide and Aspirant when conditioned by Gleaves. Thin White Duke was transferred to Donk’s care for a 4-year-old campaign when Gleaves retired from training and added the Lucky Coin [now named the Harvey Pack] to his trophy cabinet last September.

Donk said Thin White Duke, who was fifth in this event here last year, will be hopeful a full field will mean a strong pace.

“I think pace helps Thin White Duke – Yes and Yes can be a little more tactical,” Donk said.

Donk said he was proud of the winning effort from Thin White Duke last out after racing competitively in his two prior Spa starts this summer that included a fourth in an optional-claimer on Aug. 23.

“Speed was holding well earlier in the meet, but he was giving forth some really good efforts,” Donk said. “I was a little concerned with the pace early on [in the Harvey Pack]. I thought it played in their favor, so I was quite impressed with the way he finished in that race.”

To win the Harvey Pack, which honors the late broadcasting pioneer and host of racing replay shows like “Thoroughbred Action” and “Inside Racing,” was extra special for an ownership group that includes Crist – one of Pack’s first and frequent guests.

“Harvey meant a lot to Steve – it was a race on our radar and we did win it last year when it was the Lucky Coin,” Donk said. “Jose [Lezcano] gave him a great ride and it was a really good turn of foot that day.”

Thin White Duke breezed back a half-mile in 49.42 seconds over the Belmont dirt training track on Sept. 28.

“He worked pretty quick last week and galloped out well,” Donk said. “He’s a turf sprinter, so I just have to keep him happy. He’s in really good form, his health looks great and he’s in really good color for this time of year. He’s stayed in good form off his last race and is coming into it the right way.”

The Kentucky-bred Yes and Yes, a 7-year-old Sidney’s Candy gelding, finished third in this event last year despite stumbling at the break. The consistent money earner boasts a record of 34-5-8-5 for purse earnings of $472,394.

While his brother focused on Spa sprints, Yes and Yes took his show on the road this summer to finish second in both the Van Clief – missing by a neck to Front Run the Fed – on July 22 at Colonial Downs, and by a half-length to returning rival Eamonn in the Select on August 13 at Monmouth. He enters from an even sixth in the Da Hoss on Sept. 9 at Colonial when 3 1/4-lengths back of graded stakes-winner Nobals.

“He’s a horse that doesn’t do well over the turf courses at Saratoga, so I elected to ship him around and his efforts were really good,” Donk said. “He was unlucky not to win any of them. Last time he didn’t fire as well, but the course was really fast and I don’t think it suited him as much.

“He’s done well and he’s in good form,” added Donk. “He’s been a really honest horse and he deserves the opportunity to be here.”

Donk said he is hopeful that both horses will return for another season of racing next year.

“These two horses will get turned out for a couple months after the turf season is over to freshen them up and ideally bring them both back,” Donk said.

J and N Stables and Diamond N Stable’s New York-bred Dancing Buck [post 11, Kendrick Carmouche] won this event in gate-to-wire fashion last year, drawing off to a five-length score over Voodoo Zip.

Bred by J & N Stables and trained by Michelle Nevin, the 5-year-old War Dancer gelding sports a record of 16-6-3-1 for purse earnings of $441,670. The consistent dark bay has three wins over the Big A turf and will look to make amends after fading to fourth last out in the Harvey Pack while his seasonal debut from a 10-month layoff.

Dancing Buck, a full-brother to the Nevin-trained stakes-winner Mz Big Bucks, is out of the multiple stakes-placed Catienus mare Frivolous Buck.

Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable’s dual graded stakes-winner Wit [post 10, Florent Geroux] will cut back sharply for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

The 4-year-old Practical Joke colt captured the 2021 Grade 3 Sanford at the Spa and last year’s Grade 3 Bay Shore here before shifting to turf last August to put in a strong runner-up effort in the one-mile Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. He won the Spa’s restricted Better Talk Now at the same distance in his next outing before close on-the-board efforts in both the one-mile Grade 3 Bryan Station [2nd] and nine-furlong Grade 1 Hollywood Derby [3rd].

Wit has made a pair of starts this year when eighth in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in January at Gulfstream Park and fifth last out in the 1 1/16-mile Bernard Baruch on September 4 at Saratoga.

Completing a competitive field are graded stakes-placed Fauci [post 8, Dylan Davis] for trainer Phil Antonacci; the Jorge Duarte, Jr.-trained multiple stakes-winner Nothing Better [post 12, Jairo Rendon]; and stakes-winners Alogon [post 3, Abner Adorno] for trainer Ned Allard, Eamonn [post 5, Manny Franco] for conditioner Joe Orseno, and Today’s Flavor [post 7, Javier Castellano] for trainer George Weaver; as well as seven-time winner Pirate Rick [post 6, Junior Alvarado] for trainer Raymond Ginter, Jr., and three-time winner Alexis S [post 2, Inoel Beato] for trainer Leandro Moreno-Barban.

The Belmont Turf Sprint is slated as Race 6 on Saturday’s lucrative 11-race card that includes the re-scheduled Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and two Grade 1 “Win and You’re In” qualifiers at one-mile for juveniles in the $500,000 Champagne [Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile] and $400,000 Frizette [Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies]. Saturday’s stacked program is supported by the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya and the Grade 3, $500,000 Jockey Club Derby Invitational. First post is 12:05 p.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present live coverage and analysis of every day of Belmont at the Big A on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont at the Big A, and the best way to bet every race of the fall meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at

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