Belmont Park Notes - May 24
By NYRA Press Office | 05/24/2014 03:19 PM ET
Mr Speaker returns to turf for Pennine Ridge
Pletcher sends out trio in Jersey Girl on Memorial Day
Two automatic invitations to the inaugural Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational will be up for grabs on Monday in the $200,000 Pennine Ridge, a 1 1/8-mile race on the inner turf course for 3-year-olds.
The top two finishers in the Pennine Ridge will be guaranteed spots in the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby, which will be held July 5.
The 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Pennine Ridge is Phipps Stable's Mr Speaker, who is coming off a four-length win in the Grade 3 Lexington on Keeneland's Polytrack on April 19. He is 2-1-1 in five starts on the grass, including a 2 ¾-length win in the Grade 3 Dania Beach in December and a troubled second in the Grade 3 Palm Beach in March, with both starts coming at Gulfstream Park. He was seventh in Gulfstream's Grade 2 Holy Bull on the dirt in January between the Dania Beach and Holy Bull.
"We think he'll really like this turf course here with the wider turns," said McGaughey. "I don't think soft turf will help him, but, hopefully, this weather will straighten out and we won't have soft turf. I know it probably will have a little give in it, but he has done awfully well and his breezes here have been terrific. I'm not going to second guess anything and I'm just going to look forward to running him."
Jose Lezcano will ride Mr Speaker from post 4.
Gala Award, the 9-5 second choice on the morning line, will attempt to regain the winning thread after finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 12 over Keeneland's Polytrack. Previously, he had broken his maiden by three-quarters of a length in January at Gulfstream before holding off Mr Speaker by a half-length in the Palm Beach.
Todd Pletcher trains Gala Award for Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. Gala Award will leave from post 2 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard.
David Bienstock and Charles Winner's Flamboyant, a two-time winner in France, has made one start in North America, surging late to take the La Puente by a neck on April 19 at Santa Anita. Last fall, he was third in a conditions race at Le Bouscat in October. Second in that race was Gailo Chop, who has developed into a two-time Group 3 winner in France and is currently targeting the Belmont Derby.
Joel Rosario will ride Flamboyant for the first time on Monday. Flamboyant, trained by Patrick Gallagher, drew post 1.
The field also includes Can'thelpbelieving (8-1), fifth in the Palm Beach and second an entry-level allowance on April 24 at Keeneland, and Smooth Daddy (12-1), runner-up in an entry-level optional claimer on April 26 at Gulfstream.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out three runners - Red Velvet, Our Amazing Rose, and Elena Strikes - on Monday at Belmont Park in the race named for his first Grade 1 winner, Jersey Girl.
Jersey Girl, a daughter of Belong to Me, won the 1998 edition of the Grade 1 Acorn. Later on that year, she went on to take the Mother Goose at Belmont and Test at Saratoga Race Course, to add to Pletcher's collection of Grade 1 victories.
Red Velvet, 4-1 morning line, enters the Jersey Girl - for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs - fresh off a 9 ¾-length victory over Pennsylvania-breds at Penn National, in which she led every step
of the way.
"She's been training well to this point," said Pletcher's assistant, Byron Hughes. "She came out of her last race in good form; she showed a lot of talent in that spot, so we expect her to run well. I'd like to think [she's the one to catch]."
Another of Pletcher's entrants, Our Amazing Rose, the even-money favorite on the morning line, is exiting the Grade 3 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs. The Yes It's True filly made a splash in her debut at Saratoga Race Course, winning the five-furlong dash by 7 ¾ lengths. Owned by Repole Stable, the dark bay or brown filly returned to the races a winner in 2014, taking an optional claimer at Aqueduct Racetrack before finishing sixth in the Eight Belles.
Elena Strikes, 3-1 on the morning line completes the trio for Pletcher. The daughter of Smart Strike has posted a record of 2-1-1 from six starts and is coming off a fourth-place finish in an optional claimer at Belmont.
Rounding out the field are Aibhilin, who will be making her 3-year-old debut after contesting the Chelsea Flower at Belmont to close out 2013; Size, who is undefeated through two starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; and Sustainable, most recently second in an optional claimer on April 6 at Aqueduct.