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BELMONT AT THE BIG A NOTES

Edited NYRA Staff Release – Peter M. Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg, and Brook T. Smith’s dual graded stakes-winner Sierra Leone returned to the work tab Sunday at Saratoga Race Course for the first time since his third-place effort in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

Trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown, the Gun Runner colt won the Grade 2 Risen Star in February at Fair Grounds and Grade 1 Blue Grass in April at Keeneland en route to a narrow nose defeat in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby in May at Churchill Downs.

Last out, in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 8 at the Spa, Sierra Leone closed from ninth-of-10 to finish third behind the more prominent one-two finishers Dornoch and Mindframe.

Sierra Leone returned to the tab Sunday with blinkers on, covering a half-mile solo over the Oklahoma dirt training track in 49.66 seconds and galloping out through the turn and into the backstretch while encouraged by the exercise rider.

“It went fine. It was his first work back and he was moving good,” Brown said.

Brown said he has yet to decide if Sierra Leone will try the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy presented by Mohegan Sun on July 27 or wait for the Grade 1, $1.25 million DraftKings Travers on August 24.

“We could run in the Jim Dandy or train him up to the Travers. I’m not positive yet, but those are the options,” Brown said.

Brown teamed up with jockey Flavien Prat and owner Klaravich Stables to win three races on Saturday’s card at Belmont at the Big A, including a score in the Listed Wild Applause with Oversubscribed, along with an 11-furlong inner turf maiden tilt with Vesting and an impressive two-turn score for undefeated sophomore colt Unmatched Wisdom traveling nine-furlongs against elders.

Oversubscribed sat 19 lengths off a torrid pace set by Macanga under pressure from the Brown-trained Chantilly Road in the one-mile Wild Applause for sophomore fillies. Prat asked Oversubscribed to advance into the far turn with Macanga’s lead dwindling to 5 1/2-lengths at the stretch call over a tiring Chantilly Road.

Oversubscribed was full of run in upper stretch and took command approaching the sixteenth pole en route to a 3 1/4-length score in a final time of 1:35.59 over the inner turf. The winning effort garnered a career-best 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

“It set up well for her. She ran great. We’ve always thought a lot of her,” Brown said.

Brown said he will consider either the one-mile Grade 3, $175,000 Lake George on July 20 or the 1 3/16-mile Grade 2, $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational for the talented bay daughter of Too Darn Hot.

“Both are on the table. I think she can run a bit further if needed,” Brown said.

Bred in Great Britain by Rabbah Bloodstock Limited, Oversubscribed, out of the group-placed Cape Cross mare Zurigha, was a $481,041 purchase at the 2021 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.

Unmatched Wisdom, a $450,000 purchase at the 2023 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, turned heads with a prominent 6 1/4-length maiden score over Military Road here in May traveling a one-turn mile over a muddy and sealed track.

The Cairo Prince colt, out of the Pure Prize mare Glide On By, stretched out to nine furlongs Saturday against older company and won by 5 3/4-lengths under a hand ride.

“He jumped well out of the gate and got us into a good position going into the first turn,” Prat said. “He switched off nicely as he did first time out and then he was waiting for my calls. He’s a very smart individual and as of right now – very straightforward.”

Brown said he was impressed with the effort and that Unmatched Wisdom could come under consideration for the Spa’s restricted $135,000 Curlin on July 19 or the Jim Dandy.

“He ran great. He’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot of,” Brown said. “He got really sick as a 2-year-old, but he’s come back well. He’s promising for sure.”

Klaravich Stables’ Ways and Means was an impressive 8 1/4-length allowance winner against older company on June 6 at Saratoga when traveling one-mile out of the Wilson Chute. The sparkling score garnered a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure.

The sophomore daughter of Practical Joke overcame a troubled trip to run second in the Grade 1 Spinaway last summer at the Spa and was a game second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks traveling 1 1/16-miles in March in her seasonal debut. She prompted the pace in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks over sloppy and sealed footing in May at Churchill Downs before landing fourth, 10 1/2-lengths back of the victorious Thorpedo Anna.

Ways and Means worked a half-mile in 49.82 Friday over the Spa main track and could be looking longer term for a start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Test presented by Ticketmaster of August 3.

“She’s a really nice filly and she’s back on track now. We’ll probably keep her around one turn,” Brown said.

Ways and Means has banked $294,500 through a 5-2-2-0 record.

***

Thorpedo Anna back on the tab; Update on G1 Kentucky Derby-winner Mystik Dan

Nader Alaali, Mark Edwards, Judy Hicks and Magdalena Racing’s dual-Grade 1 winner Thorpedo Anna breezed a half-mile in 49.25 seconds Saturday over the Oklahoma dirt training track, marking her first timed activity since capturing the Grade 1, $500,000 DK Horse Acorn on June 7 during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, the Fast Anna dark bay parlayed a victory in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks with an impressive 5 1/2-length score at the same distance in the Acorn. She lost her front right shoe during the first turn of the winning effort, and the conditioner subsequently noted the foot was a little tender after the race.

The promising sophomore filly has since resumed training and is on track for a next start in the nine-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 at Saratoga.

“She did a maintenance half-mile by herself, easy stuff. We’ve got four weeks until she runs. Keeping her in routine, she is probably 95 to 100 percent for the Coaching Club if everything goes right,” said McPeek. “We will evaluate the race and see about the Alabama or Travers next.”

Thorpedo Anna is 3-for-3 this year, additionally capturing the Grade 2 Fantasy in March at Oaklawn Park. All of the winning trips were under regular pilot Brian Hernandez, Jr., who was also aboard for her three starts as a 2-year-old, two wins and a second in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs.

McPeek has called Thorpedo Anna “a grizzly” and entertained the idea of matching her up against colts, which has been contingent upon where Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan finds himself. The Goldencents bay exited for a second in the Grade 1 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course and an off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets as the only horse to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

After his Triple Crown-trail efforts, Mystik Dan scoped with some mucus but McPeek provided an update that the colt is doing well. He is pointed towards the Grade 1, $1.25 million DraftKings Travers on August 24 at Saratoga and then the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on September 21 at Parx Racing.

“No intentions of running him in the Jim Dandy. He ran hard all spring, and is getting a bit of a break, plenty of grazing time, horse is happy and healthy” said McPeek. “He will probably go Travers, Pennsylvania Derby.”

4 G Racing, Lance Gasaway and Magdalena Racing’s Gould’s Gold finished a close second in Saturday’s nine-furlong Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown. The Goldencents gray followed the pacesetting Batten Down five lengths back from second position and made up mild ground on that rival late to round out the exacta 1 3/4-lengths back.

McPeek said the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy Presented by Mohegan Sun on July 27 at Saratoga could be next.

“We liked the race. This was a horse that was improving, and we think we’ve got more in him. We will probably nominate him to the Jim Dandy,” McPeek said, adding that the nine-furlong $135,000 Curlin on July 19 at The Spa, restricted for 3-year-olds which have not won a graded sweepstakes at a mile or over in 2024, could also be in play.

Before the Ohio Derby, Gould’s Gold was beaten a nose after taking the lead late in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton on May 18 at Churchill. Something appeared to have caught his attention and he was nailed at the wire by Corporate Power.

“He was still figuring it out. He is a colt that kind of grinds it out, and he seems to have figured it out now. So we will give him another shot against straight three-year-olds before that window closes,” McPeek said. “He will definitely run at Saratoga in his next start though.”

Also seen at Thistledown yesterday was graded stakes-placed Corningstone finishing third as a beaten favorite in the nine-furlong Listed Lady Jacqueline off a last-out optional-claiming win on June 9 at Churchill. The Indiana-bred Kantharos mare will look to a return to state-bred company next-out.

“She ran okay. I think she is good for a little better than that, no harm no foul,” said McPeek. “It put her over a half-million. She is probably going to go to an Indiana restricted race later in the season, we just want to have her right and ready for it.”

Old Kentucky Home’s multiple graded stakes winner Classic Causeway is entered in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on June 29 at Churchill. The 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway chestnut won the turf Grade 1 Belmont Derby in July 2021 at its namesake course and will look to add another Grade 1 to his ledger on the dirt in the Stephen Foster.

“It’s an ambitious spot, he is an accomplished Grade 1-winner, and we are really hoping to get more Grade 1 black type with him,” McPeek said.

He will exit post 6 in rein to Julien Leparoux.

***

Evvie Jets and Drunk On Sake eye upcoming Belmont at the Big A stakes

The Estate of Robert J. Amendola’s multiple graded stakes winner Evvie Jets ran a pacesetting fourth last-out in the Grade 1 Just a Game, less than one-length back of the victorious Chili Flag on June 7 during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course and should return to the tab and subsequent stakes action shortly. 

Trained by Mertkan Kantarmaci, the 6-year-old Twirling Candy mare gamely fought back on the front end to be defeated three-quarter-lengths by the closing Chili Flag, one of five Chad Brown-trained rivals in the seven-horse field.

Kantarmaci said despite missing the board, it may have been the veteran turfer’s best effort, including a rallying score in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa in August at Saratoga.

“She’s doing good. She’s going to have her first work back soon. In the Grade 1, she gave a big effort,” said Kantarmaci. “I think it was in my eyes, the best race in her career.”

After the strong effort, Kantarmaci said options are open, including a title-defense attempt in the one-mile Listed $150,000 Perfect Sting on July 4 at Belmont at the Big A or the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 13 at The Spa.

“We have three or four total options that we are thinking about. I don’t 100 percent have a target for her, we will go by how she works,” said Kantarmaci. “[The Diana] might be one of them. There is also a race July 4 at one mile that she won last year, that might be another option.”

Evvie Jets boasts a record of 25-7-6-3 with $807,768 in earnings, including additional scores in the 2022 Grade 3 Noble Damsel and a Listed score last year in the Plenty of Grace.

Kantarmaci is also considering upcoming stakes action for last-out maiden claimer winner James Politano and S.O.K. Racing’s Drunk On Sake, who is nominated to Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Manila, a one-mile turf test for sophomores, at Belmont at the Big A.

After a distant finish in his May debut sprinting six furlongs in a local maiden tilt, the Yoshida dark bay returned for a pacesetting 8 1/4-length victory going 1 1/16 miles versus maiden claiming company on June 6 at Saratoga, the first race of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

The second-out graduation in his turf bow earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.

“I think I’m going to give him a shot with the Manila. I talked with the owners, and we are on the way to try him,” said Kantarmaci. “I’m going to work him Tuesday and see if I’m entering Wednesday. That will be the decision.”

Another promising newcomer in the Kantarmaci barn is Krakow Racing’s Disco Ball, who made his first 21 starts on the West Coast for trainer Brian Koriner including four victories.

In his East Coast debut, along with his first and lone start for Kantarmaci, the 7-year-old Orb gelding captured a six-furlong Delaware Park optional claimer on June 7 by 4 3/4 lengths. The performance registered an 88 Beyer Speed Figure– he entered off a career-best 94 in March in a Santa Anita Park claimer.

“He did a good job for us. We have nothing circled yet for him. We will just go by him,” said Kantarmaci. 

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