With a record of 2-1-0 from five starts this year, Musical Romance exits a victory in Calder’s Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap on July 7 at Calder Race Course, her home track. Considered for a start in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Ballerina on August 24, the 5-year-old daughter of Concorde’s Tune skipped the race because transportation from Florida to New York proved to be a challenge.
Kaplan said he would arrive in New York late next week and that his assistant, Alfredo Guzman, would travel with the mare.
“She’s doing very well,” Kaplan said of Musical Romance, who breezed five furlongs on Wednesday at Calder in 1:00.20 under regular jockey Juan Leyva. “I’m from New York and it will be nice to get back and run there.”
Kaplan has not run a horse at a NYRA track since July 1, 2008, when he had a string at Belmont Park during the spring/summer meet.
* * *
Emma’s Encore tuned up for her first start against her elders in the Gallant Bloom Handicap with a five-furlong breeze on Thursday at Belmont.
Unraced since coming off the pace to win Saratoga’s Grade 1 Prioress on August 4, Emma’s Encore was clocked in 59.17 seconds, the quickest of four moves at the distance.
“I thought she’d go a little slower,” said her Hall of Fame trainer, Allen Jerkens. “She’s funny. If you take too much hold of her, she shakes her head and stuff. In the afternoon [her riders] don’t have any trouble. Of course, you don’t have any trouble rating a horse behind a 22 [second opening quarter-mile] or 21 and change.”
Emma’s Encore, owned by Brenda Mercer and Peter A. Berglar, has won two straight, with a 39-1 upset in Belmont’s Grade 3 Victory Ride in July preceding her Prioress score. She’ll face established older horses like reigning Champion Female Sprinter Musical Romance and Grade 1 Ballerina winner Turbulent Descent in the Gallant Bloom.
“We’re going to have to [try older fillies and mares] pretty soon, anyway,” said Jerkens. “What are we going to do? You’re not going to win all of them, so you try hard and do the best you can do.”
Jerkens added that jockey Rosie Napravnik will take over for injured Junior Alvarado aboard Emma’s Encore.
Go Unbridled, who was scratched out of Sunday’s John Hettinger, could make her next start in a New York-bred stakes or the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational on September 29, Jerkens said.
“We might wait for the next New York-bred [stakes], or if it’s going to be a real small field [in the Beldame] then we might try to get in,” said Jerkens. “They might invite us and we can take a chance.”
Go Unbridled, a two-time stakes winner against New York-breds on dirt, was set to make her turf debut in the Hettinger but was scratched when the course came up yielding.
“If it wouldn’t have been so soft then we might have run,” said Jerkens. “You just get feelings about things; you can’t always explain them all.”
* * *
Trainer Ian Wilkes’ contenders for upcoming graded stakes have settled in at Belmont Park, with Island Bound targeting the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom on September 22 and Fort Larned aiming for the Grade 1 TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational on September 29.
Island Bound, winner of the Grade 3 Winning Colors in June, is looking to rebound off a last-of-six performance in the Grade 1 Ballerina on August 24.
“She doesn’t like the inside and she drew the rail [in the Ballerina], and she just didn’t like being down there,” said Wilkes.
The Robert T. Manfuso color-bearer breezed four furlongs in 48.91 seconds on Monday.
“Everything is on schedule. It looks like she handled the move fine,” said Wilkes, who added that he hasn’t decided when Island Bound will have her final breeze in the lead up to the Gallant Bloom.
Fort Larned, a Janis Whitham homebred, has been training up to the TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup since his 1 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 4 at Saratoga. He has breezed three times since the Whitney, including a 50.22 four-furlong work on the Belmont training track on Sunday and a bullet 1:00.46 move over the main track on Thursday
“He’s sharp and is on his game,” said Wilkes. “He finished up well and galloped out strongly.”
* * *
In addition to Musical Romance, Emma’s Encore and Island Bound, the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom is also expected to attract Grade 1 Ballerina winner Turbulent Descent, Grade 2 Honorable Miss victress C C’s Pal, and Prioress runner-up Judy the Beauty, NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes said Friday. Dust and Diamonds, Nakano and Strike the Moon were listed as possible for the race.