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Edited NYRA Staff Release — Emory Hamilton’s undefeated homebred Pleasant Passage, winner of the Grade 2 Miss Grillo on October 1 at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet, will train at Belmont Park for the next few weeks before shipping to Keeneland for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to be run on November 4.

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said Pleasant Passage, who earned a berth into the Breeders’ Cup as part of the “Win And You’re In Series” for her Miss Grillo victory, has exited her three-quarter length score ready to take on the best of her division in the one-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf.

“She’s doing real good. Depending on the weather, we’re planning on breezing her here on the turf on Saturday. If not, we’ll probably do it on Sunday,” said McGaughey. “She’ll get most of her work done here.”

A bay daughter of More Than Ready, Pleasant Passage is a perfect 2-for-2 after a debut maiden win in off-the-pace fashion travelling 1 1/16 miles over the turf at Saratoga Race Course two months before her Miss Grillo victory. The latter came with a change in tactics, showing early speed under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to take the lead throughout and fend off a late bid from Free Look in a final time of 1:45.25 for 1 1/16 miles over the yielding Aqueduct inner turf.

McGaughey said he was not surprised by the impressive effort. 

“She had been training good. Her first race was good and I thought she learned quite a bit in there,” said McGaughey. “She broke good and nobody seemed to want the lead [in the Miss Grillo], so Irad took advantage of it.”

Pleasant Passage hails from a pedigree rich in graded stakes performers. Her dam, Peaceful Passage, is a half-sister to the dams of Grade 1-winners Preservationist and Olympiad. Peaceful Passage’s other siblings include multiple graded stakes winner Hungry Island and Grade 3-winner/stakes producing sire Soaring Empire. Her other foal to race is a winning 3-year-old colt by Candy Ride named Dream Island, and she gave birth to a colt by Kitten’s Joy last year.

Earlier on the October 1 card at Belmont at the Big A, McGaughey celebrated a return to the winner’s circle for Grade 3-winner Bees and Honey, who took a second-level optional claimer by 2 3/4 lengths over a sloppy and sealed main track for owners Gainseway Stable and Andrew Rosen.

Ridden to victory by Ortiz, Jr., Bees and Honey rallied from 1 1/2 lengths off the pace to swing five-wide in the turn and collar pacesetter Brattle House in the final stages of the one-mile contest, scoring her first victory since the Grade 3 Comely last November. The 4-year-old Union Rags chestnut has made five starts this year after a five-month respite over the winter.

McGaughey said he plans to bring Bees and Honey back to stakes company in the nine-furlong Grade 3, $150,000 Turnback the Alarm Handicap on the November 4 at the Big A, a track she is a perfect 2-for-2 over.

“So far, so good,” said McGaughey. “I think I made a mistake turning her out over the winter and it kind of took her a while to find her stride again. She likes Aqueduct – she’s run there twice and won twice. I think that helps, too.”

Bred in Kentucky by her owners, Bees and Honey is out of the winning Smart Strike mare Wickedly Smart, a half-sister to 2010 Grade 1 Alcibiades-winner and Group 2-producer Wickedly Perfect.

On Sunday, McGaughey sent out First to Act to finish a game second to top 3-year-old filly Nest in the Grade 2 Beldame for her graded debut. A homebred for Rosen, the daughter of Curlin was defeated 9 3/4 lengths, but secured place honors by 5 1/2 lengths over Hybrid Eclipse in the nine-furlong route over a fast Big A main track.

The 4-year-old chestnut filly did not debut until this March when second in a seven-furlong maiden at Gulfstream Park, but put it all together at second asking when shipping to the Big A and stretching out to a one-turn mile in April.

She followed with a runner-up effort in her first start against winners before a strong 5 1/2-length allowance score on July 10 at Belmont Park and a close second to Leader of the Band in the Summer Colony on August 19 at the Spa.

“I thought she ran fine,” McGaughey said of the Beldame. “She didn’t come to us until late in her 3-year-old year and didn’t start until 4, so I think she’s done well to tell you the truth as far as her training and maturity. I knew it would be tough to beat Nest, but I thought she was going to be a little more competitive than she was. Everybody else seems to think she ran good, but I just didn’t think we’d be that much up against it.”

McGaughey said that First to Act, who has never finished worse than second in six lifetime starts, could make her next outing in the Grade 3 Falls City going nine furlongs on November 24 at Churchill Downs.

Winngate Stables’ multiple graded stakes winner Kathleen O. continues to make steady progress for McGaughey as she prepares to return from a layoff that came on the heels of a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill.

The daughter of Upstart is eyeing a start in the Grade 3, $175,000 Comely on November 25 at the Big A and has been working at Belmont since mid-September, most recently posting a half-mile drill in 49.12 seconds on October 8 over the main track.

“She’s doing fine,” said McGaughey. “She’s been breezing weekly and her breeze the other day was good. We’ve got another five or six weeks to go, so we’ll see what happens. I think she has benefitted from the time off. She’s carrying her weight good and all is good.”

Winner of the Grade 2 Davona Dale and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks earlier this year at Gulfstream, Kathleen O. suffered her first career defeat when rallying from 13 lengths off the pace to come up four lengths shy in the Kentucky Oaks behind the victorious Secret Oath. She has raced once at the Big A, graduating by a head on debut sprinting seven furlongs over a muddy and sealed main track in November.


Spirit And Glory poised for another upset win in G2 Sands Point

Following a triumphant out-of-state venture in the Virginia Oaks on September 6 at Colonial Downs, Spirit And Glory will take things to the graded stakes level against a competitive field of nine in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point for sophomore fillies going nine furlongs on the inner turf, at Belmont at the Big A.

Spirit And Glory, trained and co-owned by Robert Falcone, Jr. in partnership with Michael Nentwig, Michael Dubb, Beast Mode Racing and John Rochfort, was a 1 1/4-length winner of the nine-furlong Virginia Oaks, where she came from 12th-of-14 after a slow start and catapulted from sixth-to-first in the last two points of call to score under Irad Ortiz, Jr. The winning effort, which garnered a career-high 86 Beyer Speed Figure, was her second attempt at stakes level following a seventh-place finish going one mile in the Grade 3 Lake George on July 22 over the Saratoga inner turf.

“I don’t know that she cornered too well around the Saratoga turf for whatever reason. You could see she didn’t take the turns too well,” Falcone, Jr. said. “She wants more distance anyways, she doesn’t want to go a mile. So, I just threw that race out and pointed for a race that was a little bit further. Being at Colonial, you’ve got a bit of a longer stretch and she got over it really nicely. Irad rode her beautifully and everything went well.”

Spirit And Glory, an Irish-bred daughter of Cotai Glory, was initially campaigned in her native country while under the care of Michael Mulvany and was transferred to Falcone, Jr. in the spring. She made her North American debut for Falcone, Jr. a winning one, displaying her usual off-the-pace tactics to spring a 24-1 upset in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer in June on Belmont’s inner turf, defeating fellow Sands Point aspirant Canisy.

“It was rewarding. She showed the talent was there,” Falcone, Jr. recalled. “I think she’ll get better the more she gets acclimated to the U.S. and get better with time. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.”

Falcone, Jr. acknowledged that winning graded stakes races on the turf in New York is no easy task.

“It’s definitely tough. You don’t get many opportunities that some of the few trainers get. So, it can be tough when you have a couple guys that have built up their business to what they have now,” Falcone, Jr. said. “Some of these guys have A, B, C, and D teams and sometimes their Cs are your As. So, they can go out of town or run their best ones here and their second best ones would be your best one if they were in your barn. It definitely gets tough, but you have to keep rolling and hope to get the opportunities that come about and make something of them when you get to that level. It gives you something to aim for.”

With turf racing winding down in the latter two months of the year, Falcone, Jr. said the Sands Point “very well could be” Spirit And Glory’s final start this year in New York.

“We’ll see how everything maps out and how she runs and take it from there. It could be her last time,” Falcone, Jr. said.


Belmont at the Big A Week 6 stakes probables

Saturday, October 22

G2 Hill Prince

Probable: Be Better (Todd Pletcher), Grand Sonata (Pletcher), James Jones (Chad Brown), Mackinnon (C. Brown), Nantasket Beach (James Lawrence, II), Riot House (Danny Gargan), St Anthony (Neil Drysdale)

G3 Noble Damsel

Probable: Evvie Jets (Mertkan Kantarmaci), Messidor (Christophe Clement), Miss Dracarys (Drysdale), Plum Ali (Clement), Por Que No (Tyler Servis)

Possible: Domain Expertise (C. Brown), Lady Day (C. Brown), Lake Lucerne (Brendan Walsh)

Sunday, October 23

$120K Carle Place

Probable: Grooms All Bizness (Jorge Duarte, Jr.), Legends Can’t Die (George Weaver), Maya Prince (Michael Trombetta), Outlaw Kid (Weaver), Run Curtis Run (Mike Maker), Too Many Twizzlers (Arnaud Delacour)

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