Speed, speed and more speed.
Some of the fastest fillies in the country will square off at Belmont Park in today’s Grade I $300,000 Prioress, the only six-furlong distaff sprint for 3-year-olds in the U.S.
One of three graded stakes on the holiday card, the 62nd edition of the Prioress drew a field of nine, headed by Arnold Zechter’s Grade I Acorn winner Gabby’s Golden Gal.
The Bob Baffert-trained filly won wire-to-wire in the Acorn in a time of 1:34.79 over the flat mile. She suffered heat exhaustion after the race but has turned in a pair of bullet works in preparation for this race, where she shortens up the distance considerably. Baffert won last year’s Prioress with Indian Blessing.
“I think she’s going into the race as good as she did for the Acorn,” Tonja Terranova, who oversees Baffert’s New York-based horses, said in a New York Racing Association release. “Her last two breezes have been in hand.”
Gabby’s Golden Gal has three wins, a second and a third in six career starts. She led the Kentucky Oaks for six furlongs before giving way and finishing behind Rachel Alexandra in her only performance off the board.
“She’s very fast,” said Terranova. “Bob has always had a lot of confidence in her.”
Heart Ashley is expected to provide plenty of competition for Gabby’s Golden Gal. The Zayat Stables filly won a pair of Grade III stakes races, the Cicado at Aqueduct and the Miss Preakness at Pimlico, in back-to-back starts. The daughter of Lion Heart is trained by Steve Assmussen and has finished first or second in each of her six career starts.
“This is the race she’s been pointed toward for a long time,” Asmussen told the NYRA press staff. “She’s a very fast filly. In a Grade I sprint on dirt for 3-year-old fillies, everyone is going to show up.”
On the Menu, who handed Heart Ashley her worst defeat — by 71⁄4 lengths in an allowance race at the Fair Grounds — is another solid competitor, along with Selva, who was second in the Grade II Beaumont at Keeneland and Light Green, who won her last two races by a combined winning margin of 14 1⁄2 lengths.
Cat Moves, who will run as an entry with Light Green, is 2-for-2 and makes her stakes debut here.
“The Prioress is going to deserve its Grade I status here,” said On the Menu’s trainer, Larry Jones. “This filly has been doing very well, and we’ve always been high on her. One of the reasons was she ran so well against Heart Ashley, who’s a very nice filly.”
Here is the field in post-position order, with jockey and trainer in parentheses:
1. Luster (Cornelio Velasquez, Albert Stall), 2. Cat Moves (Ramon Dominguez, Anthony Dutrow), 3. Heart Ashley (Edgar Prado, Steve Asmussen), 4. Light Green (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher), 5. Reforestation (Eibar Coa, William H. Turner Jr.), 6. Be Fair (Alan Garcia, D. Wayne Lukas), 7. Gabby’s Golden Gal (Javier Castellano, Bob Baffert), 8, Selva (Rajiv Maragh, David Carroll), 9, On the Menu (Jeremy Rose, Larry Jones).
TWO MORE STAKES
Also on today’s Fourth of July card are a pair of Grade II stakes, the Dwyer and the Suburban Handicap.
The 93rd running of the Dwyer Stakes, named for Mike and Phil Dwyer, whose Dwyer Brothers Stables produced five Belmont Stakes winners in the 1880s, will feature a field of seven 3-year-olds, including Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Farm LLC’s Kensei.
Trained by Asmussen, Kensei has won two of five career starts and last ran third in the Grade II Woody Stephens at Belmont June 6.
“He’s really come around nicely this year,” Asmussen said in a press release. “A mile and a sixteenth is a question for him, but he came out of the Woody Stephens well. He’s never been in an easy race.”
The rest of the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes field: Warrior’s Reward, Convocation, Masala, American Dancer, Just Ben and Sunday Sunrise.
The 123rd running of the Suburban Handicap, run over a mile and a quarter, is the richest race of the day at $400,000.
Asiatic Boy, who was second to Macho Again in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, will carry high weight at 122 pounds. He will make his second start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
“He ran great,” McLaughlin said about Asiatic Boy’s trip in the Stephen Foster Handicap. “He had a troubled trip and still ran second. Him and [third-place finisher] Einstein beat each other up a little bit trying for the same hole twice.”
It’s a Bird, with $1,412,885 in lifetime earnings, will try for his third straight stakes win in this race. The 6-year-old won of Birdonthewire beat Jonesboro in the Grade II Lone Star Park Handicap in May and coasted to victory in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap in April.
Let’s Go Stable’s Ready Echo, also a victim of traffic problems in the Grade I Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap, will be making his third start of the year.
Rounding out the field will be Rolbea Thoroughbred Racing’s Finallymadeit, Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini, Louis Zito’s Stud Muffin, Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Rising Moon, Pablo Gomez’s Real Merchant, Robert V. LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man and Shadwell Stable’s Samhoon.
Only three times in the last 34 years have 3-year-olds won the Tom Fool Handicap.
Nevertheless, trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t mind the long odds and will send Michael B. Tabor’s 3-year-old Munnings against four older horses in Sunday’s Grade II $200,000 sprint at Belmont Park.
“It’s ambitious to try older horses at this time of year, but it’s our best option to keep him at a distance he likes and at a track he likes,” Pletcher told NYRA’s press corps.
Munnings will carry 112 pounds, including jockey John Velazquez. Fabulous Strike, who will carry 123 pounds for Belmont’s leading jockey, Ramon Dominguez, is considered Munnings’ chief rival. Fabulous Strike has a 4-1-0 record in six starts at Belmont and is coming off a victory in the Grade II True North Handicap.
Rounding out the field are Riley Tucker (jockey Jose Lezcano, trainer Baffert), The Last Wave (Jorge Chavez, Naipaul Chatterpaul) and Driven by Success (Maragh, Bruce Levine).
BIG TURF RACE
A solid mix of old and young competitors will compete in today’s $750,000 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park.
The horse to beat in the 56th running of this turf race over a mile and three-eighths will be Presious Passion, last year’s winner in this event. Presious Passion is a multiple stakes winner with $1.2 million in career earnings. The gelding won the United Nations, the Grade II W.L. McKnight and the Grade III Pan American last year. This year’s, he’s already won the Grade II Mac Diarmida and the Monmouth Stakes.
Court Vision and Wesley, a pair of 4-year-olds, as well as Better Talk Now, the 2005 United Nations winner who tries again at age 10, are other top hopefuls.
HILLIS IS BACK
New Zealand trainer Wayne Hillis finished seventh with Boulevard of Dreams five years ago, but he promised he would return to Hollywood Park with a new challenger, and he kept his word by bringing in Puttanesca for the $700,000 Grade I American Oaks over a mile and quarter on the turf Sunday.
The filly cleared quarantine Wednesday after being flown in on Monday. Puttanesca was one of seven out-of-state fillies invited to this race, which will have a field of 14 overall.
Puttanesca won the Group II New Zealand Bloodstock Royal Stakes in January. She has two victories, three seconds and two thirds in 11 starts.
Also shipped in were Apple Charlotte, an English-bred victorious in three of four starts in England, Rare Ransom, who has won two of seven starts in Ireland, Gozzip Girl from New York, The Best Day Ever from Kentucky, Magical Affair from Maryland and Afternoon Stroll from Pennsylvania.
The seven shippers join California products Well Monied, Mrs. Kipling, Acting Lady, Third Dawn, Lexlenos, Nan and Pretty Unusual.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
In 1954, 2-year-old Ribot won his first race, the Premio Tramuschio. He concluded his career in 1956 with 16 wins in 16 starts.
In 1972, 2-year-old Secretariat, ridden by Paul Feliciano, ran fourth to winner Herbull in his racing debut. It was the worst placing of his career.
In 1976, Charlie Whittingham swept the top three spots in the American Handicap at Hollywood Park with King Pellinore, Riot in Paris and Caucasus.
In 1978, D. Wayne Lukas won his first $100,000 stakes race in the American Handicap with Effervescing, ridden by Laffit Pincay at Hollywood Park.
In 1998, Elusive Quality ran the fastest mile in history in the Poker Handicap at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old horse was timed in 1:313⁄5 over a firm turf course.
In 2000, Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze registered his 7,000th career win aboard This Is the Moment at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif.. Baze became the sixth jockey in the 7,000 win club.
AROUND THE TRACKS
— Jockey Calvin Borel, regular rider of Preakness and Mother Goose winner Rachel Alexandra, will autograph photos today at Belmont Park from 2-2:45 p.m. Borel will sign 8×10 glossy, color copies of Rachel Alexandra from the June 27 Grade I Mother Goose Stakes, a race in which the Steve Asmussen-trained filly shattered two stakes records when she won by 191⁄4 lengths in 1:46.33.
— Jockey Robert C. Landry won his 2,000th career race Wednesday when he guided Firetheexecutive to victory in the ninth race at Woodbine.
— On Aug. 8, Fasig-Tipton will host a free education program, “From the Horse Farm to the Finish Line: A Seminar on the Thoroughbred Industry,” in the sales pavilion on East Avenue in Saratoga Springs. The seminar will kick off New York Racing Association’s Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing. Industry experts will participate in a panel discussion about their roles in getting a young thoroughbred from the farm to the sales ring and onto the race track. Fans can also watch a demonstration of a consignor showing a yearling to a prospective buyer. As of this writing, confirmed panelists include Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Case Clay of Three Chimneys Farm and consignor Meg Levy. A prominent thoroughbred owner is scheduled to participate, as well. Free tickets will be available through NYTB until 4 p.m. Aug. 7 or by calling 587-0777.
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