“He looked really good this morning,” said Mott of the Bernardini colt, who has now won graded stakes at ages 2, 3 and 4. “He jogged good, his legs look good, he ate well. He seemed happy. He made us happy for such a good return. No complaints. Yeah, we’re pretty happy with him.”
“She’d probably be much better at nine or 10 furlongs, and this is only 1 1/16 miles,” said Mott. “I could have run her against the boys on Thursday [Milesius Stakes at 1 ¼ miles] if I wanted the distance, but I didn’t think about it. This will get her started.”
Principal Role breezed five furlongs in 1:00.96 Sunday morning over Belmont Park’s turf, the first time since midwinter she has worked on the grass.
“We had her on the grass once down in Palm Meadows,” said Mott. “She put in a good work this morning. The clockers said it was pretty good. If she runs OK on Saturday, we’ll look at the Sheepshead Bay [Grade 2, 1 3/8 miles, May 26] or the New York [Grade 2, 1 ¼ miles, June 30].”
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Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported that Kentucky Derby contender Alpha emerged from Saturday’s five-furlong work in good order and that the Bernardini colt would depart as scheduled for Kentucky early Monday afternoon.
“He ate up. He’s happy, we’re ready to go,” he said. “I think we leave the barn tomorrow at about 1 p.m.”
McLaughlin said he would be traveling with Alpha on the cargo plane rather than taking a commercial flight.
“I’ll be sitting on a tool box next to his stall,” he said.
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Jockey Abel Lezcano was expected to be discharged from North Shore University Hospital Sunday afternoon after an overnight stay following a fall at Belmont on Saturday. Lezcano, 21, was unseated when his mount, Catreign, fractured his left front cannon bone and fell on the backstretch in Saturday’s first race. Catreign was euthanized.
“Abel is doing much better,” said the rider’s agent, Jean-Luc Samyn. “They are going to release him today. He broke two ribs – but they were not displaced, which is good – and has a laceration on his left ear. There was a lot of dirt in the cut and that’s why they kept him overnight. It was difficult to clean and they were concerned about infection, so he is on antibiotics. I think he’ll be out a month, more or less, but we’ll know more after he sees the doctor again on Tuesday. He’s banged up, but pretty lucky.”
Lezcano is 7-9-12 from 124 starts in 2012 with more than $280,000 in purse earnings.
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After winning Grade 1 turf races in 2011 with European imports Stacelita and Zagora, trainer Chad Brown is primed to make a similar assault on major grass events in America this year after receiving an influx of talented international runners.
“It’s important that different people have seen that we know what to do when you send us the right horses,” said Brown. “We have a program that seems to work, and I had always hoped to take on some of the European horses who had shown some talent over there.”
One of the new additions to Brown’s stable is Desert Blanc, who last year won a listed stakes in France. Now 4, Desert Blanc will make his stateside debut for new owner Swift Thoroughbreds in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Fort Marcy at Belmont. The son of Desert Style turned in a 1:02.22 five-furlong turf breeze at Belmont on Sunday.
“He came straight into Palm Meadows, and he trained pretty well down there,” said Brown. “He’s been right there in group races, and he’s been holding good company over there. He’s a good-looking horse, so I’m anxious to get him started. I think he could be a factor in some of these big turf races for boys.”
While Brown believes Desert Blanc can be effective at the Fort Marcy’s 1 1/16-mile distance, the trainer plans to race the colt, who was Group 3 placed at 1 ¼ miles, in longer races later in the year.
“He’s run as far as a mile and a quarter over there, but I think I think this is a good comeback, a mile and a sixteenth, to see where we’re at with him,” said Brown. “He’s a versatile horse, but I’ll be looking to stretch him out after this race. He should handle the mile and a sixteenth.”
Brown considered running Dealbata, another 4-year-old French listed stakes winner who is unraced in the United States, in Saturday’s Grade 3 Beaugay before withdrawing her from consideration following a 50.78 four-furlong breeze on turf Sunday morning at Belmont. Dealbata was bought privately by Martin Schwartz, the owner of now-retired Stacelita.
“I think [Dealbata] is going to need more time after watching her breeze,” said Brown.
Yet another talented import in Brown’s barn is Banimpire, a five-time group winner in England and Ireland. Banimpire, who also has a pair of Group 1 placings to her credit, was purchased at auction in Ireland by Schwartz for approximately $3 million in November.
“She came up here [from Palm Meadows] and kind of took one step backwards,” said Brown of the 4-year-old. “Minor stuff, just adapting. She had been doing super in Florida. There’s a different environment up here, a different climate, different tracks. I felt she took one step backwards, so we’re regrouping with her and are going to focus on a summer campaign. She should be fine, and we have a few horses coming up behind her.”
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Christophe Clement is off to a swift start at Belmont Park so far, with a record of 1-1-0 from three starts during the first two days of the spring/summer meet. As the first graded turf stakes of the meet approach – next Saturday’s Fort Marcy and Beaugay, both Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile turf races worth $150,000 – the trainer is weighing his options.
“I may have a filly called Federation for the Beaugay, and maybe Check the Label. I’m not sure yet, I have to get organized,” said Clement. “In the Fort Marcy, probably a horse called Sal the Barber, maybe also Belo Acteon. That’s where we are now. I just need a day or two to think about it, and then I will come up with a decision.”
Federation, a stakes winner in Great Britain, joined Clement’s barn in late 2011 and has two wins from three stateside starts. The 4-year-old Motivator filly was most recently second to Grade 1 winner Zagora in the Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10. Check the Label, whose most recent victory came in the Grade 1 Garden City in 2010 when under the care of trainer Graham Motion, would make her 2012 bow in the Beaugay. The 5-year-old daughter of Stormin Fever closed out 2011 with a seventh-place finish in the H.B.P.A Stakes over the artificial surface at Presque Isle Downs on October 1.
The Brazilian-bred Belo Acteon finished third in his first start in this country, a turf allowance at Keeneland on April 12 and worked five furlongs over the Belmont Park turf Sunday morning in 1:04.12. Sal the Barber, second by a neck in the Pay the Butler turf overnight stakes at Aqueduct on November 19, 2011, would make his first start of 2012 in the Fort Marcy.
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Grade 1 winner Winter Memories – who breezed five furlongs over the Belmont turf in 1:00.54 on Sunday morning – is expected to head the field in next Saturday’s Beaugay. In addition to Clement’s potential duo, she is likely to meet Dinner’s Out, Hessonite, My Redbyrd, Principal Role and possibly Gitchee Goomie.
The Fort Marcy field is also likely to include Beau Choix, Boisterous, Boots Ahead, Desert Blanc, Silver Medallion, Straight Story, and Upgrade. Street Game and Gourmet Dinner were listed as possible by NYRA Stakes Coordinator Andrew Byrnes.