For those that didn’t know, “home field” does matter at times in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. Stars and Stripes day at Belmont Park on July 7 proved familiar turf beneath the toes can be very good.

It has long been known that two-legged athletes will perform better in the friendly confines no matter what the sport. There’s something about that home cooking that relaxes the body and soul and produces better performances. Four-legged athletes can be the very same in their penchant for better performances in certain places. Let’s take a quick gander at a pair that proved a friendly course can be rewarding.

Diversify came into the grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park a little overlooked. Trained by Rick Violette, the five-year old son of Bellamy Road had displayed a genuine fondness for Big Sandy. Before the mile and a quarter Suburban, Diversify had won five of seven lifetime starts at Belmont including three in a row. For even more good measure, he was bred in New York and had taken first in the Commentator at Belmont back on May 28. Going to post at 6 to 1 and somewhat of an afterthought, most figured him to be behind California invaders Hoppertunity and Dr. Dorr as well as former Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit. After the gates opened, it didn’t take long for the speedy gelding to prove there is no place like home. Bolting to the lead right out of the gates under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Diversify clipped off some solid opening fractions (23.47 quarter mile, 46.18 half) as he led an accomplished field. As the race unfolded, there was Diversify rolling at the front full of confidence. Once he turned for home, the grandson of Street Cry turned on the jets and ran to the supper table. Winning by a widening 6 ½ lengths, the home boy covered the distance in a swift 1:59.84. The win in the $700,000 Suburban launched Diversify’s career earnings to now over a million dollars ($1,309,425).

The other “local” runner that made good on Stars and Stripes day did so in the very next race. Catholic Boy has been a well-traveled three-year old, but still is based in New York. Trainer Jonathan Thomas had guided this son of More than Ready to four wins in seven starts including the Pennine Ridge over the same Belmont turf he was about to run on in the Belmont Derby. Thomas had yet to grab a grade 1 as a trainer and most thought this would not be the spot either. Having flirted with the Kentucky Derby trail earlier in the year, it would easy to wonder how this horse fit into this mile and a quarter jaunt on the grass. After the gates opened, people had their answer. Breaking alertly, this grandson of Bernandini took it to the field in the early going. Leading as they turned for home, Catholic Boy was eclipsed by Analyze It. As the wire drew ever closer Catholic Boy found himself on the wrong end of a grueling stretch battle. Inside the final 20 yards, the Kentucky bred dug in with determination and refused to lose in his own backyard. Nosing out the competition under jockey Javier Castellano, Catholic Boy rewarded his backers and stamped himself as perhaps the best three-year old male on grass.

So here is the takeout…there is no place like home in every sport!