“It meant a lot that both called me,” said McLaughlin. “It was a very nice accomplishment and a credit to my owners and the quality of the horses they sent me, and to my staff. We’ve got a nice group of horses.”
The Garden City, which will be run as the third race, is the first of 23 graded stakes for Belmont Park’s Fall Championship meet, and one of two Grade 1 races on the day’s card. The Grade 1 $300,000 Ruffian Handicap, for fillies and mares going 1 1/16th miles, will be run as the ninth of 10 races.
While her resume includes a victory in the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland and a second in the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga, the Garden City marks the first start in a Grade 1 event for Alwajeeha, who drew post No. 3 with John Velazquez aboard.
“She’s been training very well,” said McLaughlin. “She was a little bit unlucky not to win her last race. But the Garden City is an important race, and we’d love to get Grade 1 placed with her.”
Returning from her three-quarter length victory over Alwajeeha in the Lake George is My Princess Jess, who will also be making her Grade 1 debut in the Garden City. The daughter of Stormy Atlantic is on a three-race winning streak, having taken the Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth on June 28 and an overnight stakes here at Belmont Park in May.
“She’s a very tenacious, gritty, quick filly,” said Barclay Tagg, who trains My Princess Jess for Lael Stables. “She isn’t afraid of anything. She’s a pleasure to be around.”
Never worse than second in seven lifetime starts, My Princess Jess will leave from post No. 2 with Eibar Coa riding.
“The inside is good for her,” said Tagg. “If the jock is willing to tuck in and just wait, she’s tough. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
While the Garden City is first Grade 1 start for most of the fillies, the field also boasts a pair of Grade 1 winners in IEAH Stables’ Ariege, who took the Santa Anita Oaks in March, and Pure Clan, winner of the American Oaks at Hollywood Park, who will run as an entry.
Trained by Robert Holthus, Pure Clan will be making her first start since her three-quarter length victory over Satan’s Circus in July’s American Oaks. With six victories from nine starts, Pure Clan has never been worse than third, including a third to Proud Spell in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She will be ridden by Julien Leparoux from post No. 5 and carry top weight of 122 pounds.
Entrymate Ariege, saddled by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, followed her victory over the all-weather track at Santa Anita with a win in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland over Polytrack and the Madame Jumel at Saratoga in August, which marked her first American win on grass.
“She’s been training great,” said Frankel of the filly, who worked a half-mile at Saratoga in 49.43 last Sunday and who will be ridden by Alan Garcia from post No. 8. “I really like how she’s been doing.”
Backseat Rhythm, winner of the Grade 2 Lake Placid in her last start; Grade 2 Sands Point winner Raw Silk; Satan’s Circus, who was fourth in the Del Mar Oaks following her runner-up effort in the American Oaks, and Shaker, making her American debut, complete the field. Country Star and Senor Rita Lady were entered as main track only.
The field for the 30th running of the Grade 1 Garden City:
Post Horse Wgt. Jockey Trainer
1 Raw Silk 120 Edgar S. Prado Thomas Albertrani
2 My Princess Jess 120 Eibar Coa Barclay Tagg
3 Alwajeeha 118 John R. Velazquez Kiaran McLaughlin
4 Backseat Rhythm 120 Javier Castellano Patrick Reynolds
5 Pure Clan 122 Julien R. Leparoux Robert Holthus
6 Shaker 116 Cornelio H. Velasquez Gary Tanaka
7 Ariege 118 Alan Garcia Robert Frankel
8 Satan's Circus 116 Corey S. Nakatani Christophe Clement
MTO Country Star 118 No rider Robert Frankel
MTO Senior Rita Lady 116 Rajiv Maragh Richard Violette