Monday, September 17, 2012

BELMONT PARK NOTES; Sunday, September 16, 2012

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Chad Brown reported Sunday morning that Samitar came out of her narrow victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Garden City at Belmont Park in good shape, and next will point for the Grade 1, $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Saturday, October 13 at Keeneland.

With her gutsy head victory over Somali Lemonade in the Garden City, the 3-year-old filly did something even her champion sire, Rock of Gibraltar, couldn’t accomplish – win a North American Grade 1 to go along with a victory in a European classic. Rock of Gibraltar won both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, but came up just short in his lone North American start, the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Owned by Martin S. Schwartz, Samitar captured the Group 1 Etihad Airways Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh in late May.

What struck Brown the most about Samitar’s Garden City victory was her tenacity.

“I think she is a tough horse,” Brown said. “She’s not real big, but she has a lot of courage. She’s a real battler. It didn’t surprise me to see her really battle towards the wire and hold that other horse off. The way she trained, she seems to be that way.

“Even in her first start in the country, in the Lake George, she was only in my barn for a few days, and I watched the race, I didn’t have anything to do with preparing her for it, but I thought she was hopelessly beaten at the quarter pole. I didn’t think she would get anything, and for her to hit the board, she really battled. It wasn’t a win but it showed me a little something there, and then when I took over her training, I kept that in mind, that she’s a real fighter. She’s a pretty brave horse.”

Brown was pleased with how runner-up Dealbata and fifth-place finisher Kya One ran in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel, contested at a mile on the firm Belmont turf, but feels that the race didn’t fit either of their optimal preferences.

Two of Dealbata’s four career victories have come at 1 ¼ miles, while Kya One’s lone stakes victory came going 1 1/8 miles.

“I think both the races that I’ve run Dealbata in at a mile have been too short for her,” Brown said. “Those races were available when she was ready to run, so we went for them, and she ran very well in both of them to her credit. But we probably would have been better suited waiting for races that fit her, even though they didn’t fit into our schedule.

“From here on out, I’m going to run her further distances and hopefully get some cut in the ground. I’ve seemed to always find firm turf for her too, and I can just tell from the way she moves, she is looking for some cut in the ground. She has done really well over here in her three starts, and I don’t think she’s had anything go her way, really, in terms of where I’ve placed her – surface or distance. I think if she stays together in good order, I think she’s pretty good and is going to win a big race.”

Brown also feels that Kya One, who was making her first start for the barn, needs more ground.

“I thought Kya One ran well,” he said. “We were in a little bit of a spot with her. We didn’t have anything that really fit on the schedule for her and we wanted to get a race into her and get her some experience over here. The feedback from Johnny [Velazquez] was that she was always kind of on the chase and never really took him anywhere. I think that was a function of being too short, almost a one-turn type of race with a fast pace and the field was spread out and there was not much cover. It kind of took her out of her sorts, but she got some experience over here.

“The way that she trains, there is no doubt that she is a graded stakes caliber horse over here. She’s really looking for longer distances, so she would be a horse that I might point for the Long Island [Grade 3, $150,000, 1 ½ miles turf, Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, November 10].”

* * *

Frank Stronach’s 4-year-old filly Awesome Feather will look to run her record to a perfect 10-for-10 on Thursday at Belmont Park in the one-mile Nasty Storm overnight stakes, scheduled as Race 3. The race drew nine entrants, but some are expected to scratch.

Trained by Chad Brown, the diminutive Florida-bred daughter of Awesome of Course has dealt with tendon issues that have resulted in a light racing schedule over the past few years.

After winning six races in 2010, highlighted by a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, she made only two starts in 2011, including a 5 ¼-length romp in the Grade 1 Gazelle in November at Aqueduct. In her lone start this year, Awesome Feather produced a 5 ¾-length tour de force score in the Sunshine Millions Distaff in January at Gulfstream Park.

Brown is hopeful that Thursday’s overnight stakes, in which Awesome Feather has been installed as the 4-5 morning line favorite, will be the perfect prep for an appearance in the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic on Friday, November 2 at Santa Anita Park.

“The race is good timing before the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic; I have roughly six weeks,” Brown said. “She’s training super. Her weight is very good, her coat is great, and her works have been perfect. I’ve brought her down to Belmont and I thought she galloped very well today. If she’s sound and in good order, we’ll plan on running her.”

Jeffrey Sanchez, a 27-year-old native of Puerto Rico, will again have the mount on Awesome Feather. He has been on board for all nine of her starts.

On Saturday, Martin S. Schwartz’s Grade 1 winning 5-year-old mare Zagora put in her second work (four furlongs, breezing, 49.88) since setting a track record in the Grade 2, Ballston Spa on August 25 at Saratoga Race Course.

Both her works have been over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga, but Brown indicated that she is on her way to Belmont to continue preparations for a likely run in the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational on Saturday, September 29.

“We still got a little bit of an eye on the Spinster at Keeneland [Grade 1, 1 1/8 miles Polytrack, Sunday, October 7], that’s not totally off the table,” said Brown. “But I’m going to get her down here and train her towards the Flower Bowl locally, while keeping an eye on some other races. She’s most likely to run here, though.”

Brown also is making plans for two of his impressive 2-year-old turf winners from the Saratoga meet.

Balance the Books, who ran second in a maiden race at Saratoga before capturing the Grade 2, $200,000 With Anticipation the final week of the meet, will target either the Grade 3, $150,000 Pilgrim going 1 1/16 miles on the turf Sunday, October 7 at Belmont Park or the Grade 1, $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity going 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack Saturday, October 6 a Keeneland.

“I need to speak with the owners, Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence, and see what they’re comfortable with,” said Brown. “The Breeders’ Futurity is a pretty big race, being a Grade 1. I bought him out of a sale at Keeneland and he’s been over the Polytrack before, so it might make sense to take a shot at a Grade 1 with him. I think he’s doing really well right now.”

Brown added that Noble Tune, who broke his maiden at first asking impressively over the Saratoga turf on September 3, is pointing for the Pilgrim.

“Noble Tune is probable for the Pilgrim, no matter what,” Brown said. “That won’t influence what I do with Balance the Books. At this point, I don’t mind running these nice horses against one another.”

* * *

It was a busy morning at Saratoga Race Course for trainer Todd Pletcher, who was on hand to oversee a number of horses work in preparation for upcoming stakes.

Among them was multiple Grade 1 winner Turbulent Descent, who went a half-mile in 50.50 seconds for a likely start in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont.

Following her victory in the Grade 1 Ballerina – her first start for Pletcher and owners Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith – Pletcher weighed training Turbulent Descent up to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 2 at Santa Anita Park, but said Sunday the 6 ½-furlong Gallant Bloom could be beneficial.

“We’ll enter her and Mildly Offensive in the Gallant Bloom, and we might run both,” said the trainer. “There will still be six weeks to the Breeders’ Cup, which is a long time. The thinking is that she might be a little sharper for having a race.”

Also on the Oklahoma training track worktab was Stay Thirsty, who breezed a half-mile in 50.22 as he points toward a possible return engagement on September 29 in the Grade 1 TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup, a race in which he finished third in 2011.

In his most recent outing, the 4-year-old Bernardini colt ran fifth, just over four lengths behind winner To Honor and Serve, in the Grade 1 Woodward on September 1 at Saratoga. He also was fifth, beaten 13 ½ lengths, behind winner Mucho Macho Man in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on July 7 at Belmont.

“The Woodward wasn’t quite as good of a race as he was touting us, but it was a better race than the Suburban,” said Pletcher of the Repole Stable color-bearer. “There are a few things we can adjust, such as the riding style. He was in tight quarters late, and Javier [Castellano] got the stick knocked out of his hand and didn’t get to ride the way he wanted to the last part of the race. It didn’t cost us the win, but it might have cost us third. We can hope for another step forward.”

Rule, sixth in the Woodward, also breezed a half-mile in 49.33, but Pletcher said the 5-year-old son of Roman Ruler will most likely bypass the TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Love and Pride, upset winner of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on August 26 at the Spa, worked a half-mile in 49.70 as she points to either the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Beldame on September 29 or the Grade 1 Zenyatta at 1 1/16 miles the same day at Santa Anita Park.

“Right now, I’m leaning towards the Zenyatta because it’s a two-turn race,” said Pletcher. “But we won’t make that decision until closer to the race.”

Two of Pletcher’s promising juveniles worked in company, with Archwarrior and Micromanage going head-to-head in 50.42 for a half-mile as their connections mull the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne on October 6.

Owned by Alto Racing, Archwarrior was a 3 ¼-length maiden winner in a six-furlong race on August 30 at Saratoga, while Repole Stable’s Micromanage came home a five-length victor on September 1 going seven furlongs.

“I liked both horses’ works,” said Pletcher. “They’re both under consideration for the Champagne. They will ship to Belmont this week and we’ll see how they continue to train, and how aggressive in their approach their owners want to be.”

* * *

Trainer Bill Mott confirmed Royal Delta for the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational and said To Honor and Serve could compete in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap after the pair posted separate breezes on Sunday at Belmont Park.

Both the Beldame and the Kelso will be contested on September 29, Super Saturday at Belmont.

Besilu Stables’ Royal Delta, breezing for the second time since her second-place finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap on August 26 at Saratoga, negotiated five furlongs in 59.24 seconds, the second quickest of 24 moves at the distance.

“A nice, smooth work,” said Royal Delta’s Hall of Fame conditioner. “Normal for her. She was good. That’s been her second work [since the Personal Ensign], and she’ll probably have another work next weekend, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, weather permitting, and then if all is well we’ll run in the Beldame.”

To Honor and Serve took to the training track and turned in a 47.43 breeze, his first since his victory in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Woodward on September 1.

“He was good, did it easily. Seems to be doing well,” said Mott.

Mott originally planned to train To Honor and Serve up to the Breeders’ Cup in early November at Santa Anita, but now says the Live Oak Plantation color-bearer is possible for the one-mile Kelso.

“We’re leaning in that direction but not committed 100 percent,” said Mott. “We also have the option of just waiting for the Breeders’ Cup.”

Both the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile are under consideration for To Honor and Serve.

“I think Ms. [Charlotte] Weber’s preference would probably be to run in the Classic,” said Mott. “Obviously, everybody would love to win the Classic, but we’re not locked in there. We could still run in the Mile if we want, but we have time. We’re going to run in one or the other.”

* * *

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin worked a quartet of stakes runners for Godolphin Racing this weekend at Saratoga’s Greentree Training Center, with multiple Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky and promising juvenile Fortify turning in breezes for upcoming stakes races at Belmont Park, and top sophomores Questing and Alpha working toward engagements at Parx Racing.

It’s Tricky, who has competed exclusively in New York this year with Grade 2 victories in Aqueduct Racetrack’s Top Flight and Distaff Handicaps and a Grade 1 score in the Ogden Phipps Handicap, worked a sharp five furlongs in 58.80 on Sunday over Greentree’s Tapeta surface. Most recently, the 4-year-old Mineshaft filly was a courageous third after falling to her face at the start of Saratoga’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap on August 26. She is pointed for a start in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational on September 29 at Belmont Park.

Fortify, an impressive Spa maiden winner who then was second to Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Hopeful on closing day, covered a half-mile in 48.10 on Saturday as he prepares for a start in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne on Saturday, October 6.

Questing, who dominated the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga this summer, also worked Saturday, breezing four furlongs in 48.20 for an anticipated start in Saturday’s Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing.

Alpha, winner of the Travers via a dead heat with Golden Ticket, is also Parx-bound this weekend. He worked five furlongs in 59:00 on Friday for his start in the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby.

“I’m happy with the works,” McLaughlin said. “They’re all on course.”

* * *

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey sent out a fearsome foursome of workers on Sunday to gear up for upcoming graded stakes at Belmont Park.

Three of the Sunday breezers are targeting Grade 1 races on September 29, with TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup contender Hymn Book covering four furlongs in 48.33, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational hopeful Point of Entry traveling four furlongs on grass in 49.03, and Flower Bowl Invitational probable Hit It Rich cruising three furlongs in 36.71. Boisterous, who is aiming for a title defense in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker, worked in company with Point of Entry and also received a time of 49.03.

“They all have chances, I think,” said McGaughey. “Hit It Rich has always sort of been an inch below, but I think one of these days I think she is going to step up and not be an inch below.”

McGaughey said he is looking forward to racing Hymn Book at Belmont, where he has won a pair of overnight stakes and twice finished second in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. Hymn Book, who races for Stuart Janney, III, was fourth in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 4 at Saratoga Race Course.

“Hymn Book’s races here have always been good, and if he gets away well and is in the race then I think he’ll have a big chance [in the TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup],” said McGaughey. “He’s doing really well, so we’ll see. If he’s not good enough, we’ll find an easier spot for him. The last two years I took him to Saratoga, and he just didn’t do that well up there. I think he likes it a lot better here over this bigger track. Maybe it’s a little softer, too, because he’s always trained well at Payson [Park Thoroughbred Training Center in Florida].

“He was closing here going a mile and an eighth, so [the extra distance] might end up helping him while it might hinder some of the others. He’s bred to run that far, so I don’t think that will get in his way. I think he’s put on weight down here, and I think he trains a little bit better over this track and moves better.”

* * *

Trainer Christophe Clement reported Sunday that both of his runners in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel – winner Naples Bay and fourth-place finisher Federation – returned well from Saturday’s one-mile turf race.

“Naples Bay is doing well and Federation came back in good order as well,” Clement said. “No further plan at the moment, we’ll enjoy it for a few days. Everything is possible. Everything is wide open.”

This morning Clement sent out Waterford Stable’s Summer Front to breeze a half mile over Belmont Park’s inner turf course in 51.63. Summer Front, a four-time stakes winner whose biggest victory to date came in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on June 16 at Belmont, exits a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on August 18. The trainer also worked Cheyenne Stables’ Mystical Star (five furlongs in 1:03.59), winner of the Grade 2 New York at Belmont on June 30 and exiting an eighth-place effort in Arlington’s Grade 1 Beverly D.

“Summer Front had a nice work this morning; it was his first since the Secretariat,” said Clement. “He finished third, and I thought he had not much racing luck. He will run in the Jamaica [Grade 1, 1 1/8 miles on October 6]. Mystical Star worked this morning as well, and she’s a possibility for the Flower Bowl [Grade 1, 1 ¼ miles on September 29]. I’m not sure about it yet, but she’s possible.”

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