Calumet Farm's Casino Grande has done no wrong in his two career starts and will look to take things to the next level when facing five other 3-year-olds in Thursday's $80,000 Easy Goer Stakes over Belmont Park's main track.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the son of Cairo Prince won his debut, defeating next-out winner Federale on March 14 at Tampa Bay Downs before besting winners at Gulfstream Park going a one-turn mile on May 16. In that last-out victory, Casino Grande tracked the leaders to the outside, received his cue at the quarter pole and drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths, registering an 81 Beyer Speed Figure.
"I think he deserves this chance. He's done everything right so far," Clement said. "It's taken him a while to train as forwardly as he should since he came to Belmont. It's a little overwhelming for him being here, but he'll work things out."
A Kentucky homebred, Casino Grande is out of the graded stakes-placed Tapit broodmare Selective.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., who piloted Kid Cruz (2014) and Economic Model (2016) to Easy Goer victories, will be aboard Casino Grande from post 3.
Also carrying two victories into the Easy Goer is Sonneman, who defeated winners last out off a six-month layoff and will make his debut for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Owned by Courtlandt Farms, third time was the charm for the dark bay son of Curlin out of multiple stakes-winner Zardana. Sonneman registered a career-best 83 Beyer when defeating next-out winner Cost Basis in a one-turn mile maiden event on Oct. 5 at Belmont Park. He did not race again until April 4, where he defeated winners at Gulfstream Park by 1 1/2 length.
Jose Ortiz will pilot Sonneman from post 4.
Imperial Racing's Celtic Striker will attempt to make amends following two unplaced efforts against graded stakes company. Celtic Striker will cut back to one turn after finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Matt Winn.
Trained by Ray Handal, the bay son of Congrats was in contention heading into the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn and gave way at the top of the stretch finishing 8 ½ lengths to winner Maxfield.
Manny Franco has the call from post 1.
Rounding out the field are Informative (post 2; Eric Cancel), Prodigious Bay (post 5; Joel Rosario), and Toy (post 6; John Velazquez).
The Easy Goer pays homage to Ogden Phipps' talented chestnut whose career earned him Hall of Fame honors in 1997. Often dubbed as "New York's Easy Goer," the Shug McGaughey-trained son of Alydar won nine Grade 1 races in the Empire State including the 1989 Belmont Stakes. Following a triumph in the "Test of the Champion," Easy Goer won the Whitney, Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Slated as Race 8 on Thursday's nine-race card, which offers a first post of 1:15 p.m. Eastern, the Easy Goer will feature on America's Day at the Races, produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports, and airing live on FOX Sports and MSG+. Free Equibase-provided past performances are available for races that are part of the America's Day at the Races broadcast and can be accessed at https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.