• Howe Great looking for first Grade 1 win in Jamaica
• Eight turf fillies to vie in Monday’s Pebbles
• Munnings Sister will try to emulate older full brother by winning Saturday stakes
• Fields forming for G3 Knickerbocker, G3 Athenia
• It’s Tricky to remain at Belmont to prepare for Breeders’ Cup
• G3 Pilgrim, G3 Miss Grillo rescheduled for Monday
“He went to the track this morning, and we’re both really happy,” said Meehan. “He’s fresh and well, just leg-stretching and schooling in the gate and the paddock. We have a good post position, and after two nice days the track should be in reasonable condition. He couldn’t be better. His form is good, and we’ll try to maintain our excellent strike rate in this country.”
Meehan, who is based at the Manton training center near Marlborough, England, has competed in 23 races in the United States, winning the 2003 Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap with Buy the Sport and the 2008 Grade 1 Man o’ War with Red Rocks at Belmont. He has captured the Breeders’ Cup Turf twice, first in 2007 with Red Rocks and again in 2010 with Dangerous Midge.
Owned by J. Paul Reddam, who campaigned Red Rocks, Cogito was under consideration for the Grade 1 Travers in August at Saratoga Race Course but bypassed the race after a pulled muscle forced him to miss training. In his most recent start, he was second, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam on July 22 at Maisons-Laffitte in France.
“He pulled a muscle [before the Travers] and it was taking too long to bring him back,” said Meehan. “He was back, but he wasn’t back 100 percent, so it was a shame, really. I would have loved to have gone to the Travers, but this will do. I’ll take a Grade 1 if we’re lucky enough to win it.”
Frankie Dettori, who is named to ride Cogito in the Jamaica, Roveing Patrol in the Grade 1 Frizette, and maiden Telegraph Hill on Saturday at Belmont, will arrive in New York Friday night, Meehan said. On Sunday, Dettori is scheduled to compete in five Group 1 stakes, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, at Longchamp in France.
“It’s what Frankie is conditioned to do and what he’s best,” said Meehan of Dettori’s itinerary. “Belmont for a Grade 1, Paris for an Arc. It’s what he thrives on. He’s a wonderful professional. We have a great record together, and we hope we can keep that up, too.”
Dettori’s most recent appearance at Belmont came in 2005 when he rode in five Breeders’ Cup races. Previously at Belmont, he won the 2001 Breeders’ Turf aboard Fantastic Light and the 1991 Grade 2 Long Island Handicap with Shaima.
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With a trio of stakes victories, Howe Great already has turned his first hat trick, but trainer H. Graham Motion is hopeful the 3-year-old Team Valor colt will light the lamp for his first Grade 1 in tomorrow’s Jamaica Handicap.
The 1 1/8-mile turf race will be Howe Great’s second Grade 1 appearance; in the spring, he finished fifth behind Jamaica favorite Dullahan in the Blue Grass over the synthetic surface at Keeneland. That left him with insufficient earnings to make the Kentucky Derby, and he has raced exclusively on turf since, compiling a 1-2-1 record in four starts, including a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last time out.
In that race, Howe Great was three-quarters of a length behind the front-running My Best Brother, who was unpressured throughout the 1 1/8-mile turf race.
“No one went with the winner,” said Motion. “I thought our horse ran a great race.”
The trainer added that Howe Great – who is named after hockey great Gordie Howe –
is coming into the Jamaica as well as or better than any of his races.
“He’s maturing, and he has been training very well for the Jamaica,” said Motion of Howe Great, who is 5-3-1 from 10 career starts. “He’s really a lovely colt, you can do anything with him, and he has been so consistent. I think he’s a Grade 1-calibre horse and I hope he gets a chance to prove it.”
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Motion will try for his third victory in the $150,000 Pebbles when he sends out Augustin Stables’ Ski Holiday in Monday’s one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.
The daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, 2-1-1 from four starts including a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Virginia Oaks, enters Monday’s race off a 1 ½-length allowance victory at the Pebbles distance on August 29 at Penn National.
Belmont’s leading rider, Ramon Dominguez, has been named to ride Ski Holiday by Motion, who won the Pebbles in 2010 with Aruna and in 2007 with Cat Charmer. The pair will leave from post position 7 at 6-1 on the morning line.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle the top two choices for the Pebbles in Peace Preserver, the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, and Channel Lady, the 3-1 second choice.
Peace Preserver, a daughter of War Front, enters the Pebbles off two consecutive runner-up stakes finishes this summer in the Riskaverse at Saratoga Race Course and the Desert Vixen at Monmouth Park, while Channel Lady will be making her stakes debut off an allowance victory at Saratoga.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Peace Preserver from post position 3 and Javier Castellano will be aboard Channel Lady, who drew alongside in post position 4.
Looking to get back in the winner’s circle is More Than Love, who capped her juvenile campaign with a victory in the Grade 2 Miesque at Hollywood Park. This year, the More Than Ready filly is winless in three starts and was last of 12 in the Edgewood Stakes in May at Churchill Downs last time out.
“She’s coming into the race great after getting a freshening from late spring into the summer,” said trainer John Terranova of More Than Love, 12-1 on the morning line from post position 5. “She’s been getting better each week and we’re looking for a good effort from her.”
Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are supplementary entry Carpe Pretium, Filare l’Oro, Ainsley, and Assateague. Welcome Guest was entered and will run only if the race is moved to the main track.
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In 2006, broodmare La Comete produced a Speightstown colt who was named Munnings and went on to win three graded stakes, including the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont. Three years later, La Comete gave birth to a filly by Speightstown, and on Saturday the full sister to Munnings will make her Belmont debut in the Dream Supreme overnight stakes, a seven furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.
The filly’s name? Munnings Sister.
A Charles Fipke homebred, Munnings Sister has made six starts to date, all in Northern California for trainer Tim McCanna. After winning the California Wine Stakes on June 23 at Pleasanton in her most recent start, she was sent to New York to train under Barclay Tagg, but an injury she incurred during her journey delayed her East Coast debut.
“She must have gotten hurt somewhere in transit because she couldn’t move her head or neck or anything,” said Tagg. “She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t put her head down, she couldn’t bite a fly, she couldn’t move left or right or up and down. We worked on her, worked on her, worked on her, and every time we felt we had her better she’d get bad again. Every time we’d breeze her she’d get bad again. We had the chiropractor work on her. We had the acupuncturist work on her.”
Tagg said Fipke sent Munnings Sister to New York to try to earn graded black type, but the injury forced her to miss races like the Grade 3 Victory Ride in July at Belmont and the Grade 1 Prioress and Grade 1 Test in August at Saratoga Race Course.
“We missed all of the races we had been interested in,” said Tagg. “This is the closest thing I could find to what we need. I didn’t really want to run her seven furlongs first time out because she’s never run over six furlongs in her life and is carrying top weight. We’ve managed to get a series of breezes into her, but we don’t know if she’ll be able to handle real pressure. But anyway, she’s a lovely filly and she’s doing well, so we’re going to try it.”
Tagg said Fipke’s Jersey Town emerged from his victory in last Saturday’s Grade 2 Kelso Handicap in excellent shape.
“He was really stiff in his stall the next day,” said Tagg. “I took him out and walked him around, and the more I walked him the faster he got and the stronger her got. He finally had me all broken out in a sweat trying to walk him. We walked him a couple of days and grazed him every afternoon, and we started taking him back to the track. Robin [Smullen, assistant to and exercise rider for Tagg] said he feels better than he’s ever felt in his life.”
Tagg said that Sky Blazer, third in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap, is probable for the Grade 3, $150,000 Knickerbocker on October 13, with Beau Choix under consideration for the Rob ‘n Gin overnight stakes on October 12.
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In addition to Sky Blazer, the Knickerbocker at 1 1/8 miles on Belmont’s inner turf course is expected to attract Barocci, Boisterous, Bombaguia, Prince Will I Am, See Tobe, Stormy Lord, and Tune Me In, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Brilliant Speed, Freud’s Honor, and Queen’splatekitten are questionable.
Belmont also will host Grade 3, $150,000 Athenia, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, on October 13. The Chad Brown pair of Dealbata, victorious in the Mohegan Sky overnight stakes in June and runner-up in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel in September, and Welcome Guest, who is unraced on the grass, are probable, as are Adjacent, Clare Skies Ahead, Embarr, La Cloche, Laughing, Law of the Range, and Ruthenia.
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Grade 1 Beldame runner-up It’s Tricky will remain at Belmont instead of returning to the Greentree training center next to Saratoga Race Course to train for the Breeders’ Cup as previously planned, said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
“After she ran, I just thought about, and she does well from here,” said McLaughlin of It’s Tricky, who had been based upstate since June. “So we decided to leave her here from now, and see how she trains.”
A decision on whether the 4-year-old filly will run in the 1 1/8-mile Ladies’ Classic, in which she finished second to Royal Delta last year, or the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint has yet to be made, said McLaughlin.
“[Godolphin racing manager] Simon Crisford will help us decide,” said McLaughlin. “We’ll pre-enter both. Obviously, one is tough-tough, and the other is tough as well. But we’ll look at both of them. We’ll talk to Simon, he’s the boss when it comes to placing them.”
The multiple Grade 1-winning filly, 8-4-1 from 14 career starts, has one victory in three starts at the Ladies’ Classic distance, with one third and one fourth-place finish. She is 2-for-2 sprinting, including her six-furlong maiden victory and the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap this spring at Aqueduct Racetrack.
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Due to the potential of inclement weather on Sunday in the New York metropolitan area, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) has rescheduled the Grade 3, $150,000 Miss Grillo and the Grade 3, $150,000 Pilgrim, both Breeders’ Cup Challenge races run on the turf, for Monday, October 8.
The 1 1/16-mile Miss Grillo, for 2-year-old fillies, is a “Win and You’re In” automatic qualifier for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. The Pilgrim for 2-year-olds, also contested at 1 1/16 miles on turf, is an automatic qualifier for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
If the winner of either race is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by October 22, Breeders’ Cup will pay the $30,000 in entry fees and provide a $10,000 travel allowance to the winning stable to start in the Breeders’ Cup, which will be held November 2-3 at Santa Anita.
Under Breeders’ Cup Challenge rules, if either the Miss Grillo or the Pilgrim is taken off the turf and run on the main track, the race winner will not earn the automatic berth or the free entry and travel benefits into the corresponding Breeders’ Cup World Championships race. A decision to move Breeders’ Cup Challenge race off the turf to the main track is left to the sole discretion of the host track or host racing association.