The 52,861 fans who came out to Belmont Park on Saturday were also treated to some prestigious graded stakes on the undercard. The two stakes races contested on the turf were both Grade 1.
The last race before the Belmont is the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (G1), with a field of 12 older horses going 1 1/4 miles over the inner turf course. Woodford Reserve Turf Classic runner-up Cowboy Cal was the 3-1 favorite, with Frank E. Kilroe Mile winner Gio Ponti the 7-2 second choice. IEAH Stable sent out a 2-horse entry of Turf Classid 3rd place finisher Court Vision and claimer Optimizer, coupled in the wagering at 4-1.
Optimizer, sent out as the rabbit for IEAH, was sent to the front by Rudy Rodriguez and he set fractions of 24.38 and 49.08 while 1 1/2 lengths in front of Cowboy Cal. After 5/8 mile Optimizer tired allowing Cosmonaut to move up to take over the front. In mid-stretch, Cosmonaut also tired, as Gio Ponti, unhurried early, closed strongly 5 wide through the lane to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Marsh Side in 2:02.91 over the yielding course. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Better Talk Now third, while Cowboy Cal faded to ninth.
Belmont Undercard Stakes Part 2 - the Acorn Stakes (G1), True North Handicap (G2), and Woody Stevens Stakes (G2)