Boisterous faces seven at Belmont

Although Point of Entry will not defend his title in the $600,000 Man o' War Handicap, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey hopes Boisterous will be a capable pinch-hitter in the 1 3/8-mile turf event at Belmont Park July 13.

Winner of the June 9 Monmouth Stakes in his most recent start, the 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor steps up to the plate for Phipps Stable as his stablemate, a five-time Grade 1 winner, continues to recover from a condylar fracture.

"We'll see," McGaughey said of Boisterous, who ran third in the 2011 Man o' War and 2012 Woodford Reserve Manhattan. "He's never won a grade I; he's been third twice. We've always thought he was a grade I kind of horse."

Boisterous, who closed out his 5-year-old campaign with back-to-back victories in the Knickerbocker at Belmont and the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack, finished second in the Ben Ali over the Keeneland Polytrack in his first start of 2013. Along with West Point Thoroughbreds' Pan American winner Twilight Eclipse, he carries co-highweight of 120 pounds from post 6. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride.

"His race in Lexington on the Polytrack was great," McGaughey said. "There was no pace and we were four or five lengths back turning for home and got beat a length. Then he came back and ran really well down at Monmouth and has done real well since then."

Boisterous won the 1 1/8-mile Monmouth Stakes by a driving 1 ¼ lengths over Big Blue Kitten, who came back at the New Jersey oval July 6 to take the United Nations Stakes.

Calumet Farm's Optimizer should prove prime competition for the Phipps colorbearer after doggedly battling Point of Entry in the June 8 Manhattan. The 4-year-old English Channel colt pressed the pace in the 1 ¼-mile contest on yielding turf and clung stubbornly to the lead before being passed a furlong out as Point of Entry drew off to win by 1 ½ lengths.

Optimizer leaves the rail under a 116-pound impost including Joel Rosario. Optimizer has been winless since putting together solid back-to-back efforts in Grade 3 stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas at the beginning of the year, but his past three efforts have come against solid company including a runner-up finish by 4 ¼ lengths to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan after a slow start on yielding ground in the May 4 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic going 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs. Between facing Point of Entry and Wise Dan, he was third at the same distance in the May 18 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico Race Course behind stablemate Skyring and Willcox Inn.

Taking a step up in class for the 55th running of the Man o' War is Moyglare Stud Farm's homebred Speaking of Which, winner of the 2012 edition of the 1 ¼-mile Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes in his native Ireland. Speaking of Which was shipped to the United States last fall, finishing second in the Twilight Derby and last of 14 in the Hollywood Derby for Irish trainer Dermot Weld. He was subsequently transferred to Christophe Clement and finished sixth in the Fort Marcy in May at Belmont before winning an optional claimer at Monmouth on June 21, both contested at 1 1/16 miles.

Clement said he has been wanting to stretch out Speaking of Which ever since the 4-year-old son of Invincible Spirit ran in the Fort Marcy.

"I ran him in the Fort Marcy, and I made a big mistake," said Clement. "He should have gone farther. They went very quickly and he was always one paced. He was not tight enough."

Speaking of Which was going to prep for the Man o' War by competing in the June 14 Three Coins Up overnight stakes at Belmont but the race came off the turf, prompting Clement to run the colt at Monmouth. He went on to win by 2 ¾ lengths.

"It was an easy race, but I thought it went well," said Clement. "He was very impressive. It was a perfect race, mentally, for him, and he came back in very good order. He had one easy work, and he looked great last weekend. He is a nice horse, but is he nice or very nice? That's the question."

Twilight Eclipse, a 4-year-old Purim gelding who was fifth in the Manhattan for trainer Tom Albertrani last time out, and Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable's multiple graded stakes winner Al Khali, a 7-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro who ran seventh in the April 26 Elkhorn at Keeneland in his most recent start for Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott, are also of interest.

Donegal Racing's multiple graded stakes-placed Finnegans Wake, Mr. Amore Stable's stakes-placed Exclusive Strike, and Naipaul Chatterpaul's recent claim Folk Singer complete the field.