“Homegrown” Hessonite Facing Internationally Flavored Field in Sheepshead Bay
By Jenny Kellner | 05/22/2013 05:33 PM ET
New York-bred Hessonite, who became a graded stakes winner last time out, takes on an internationally flavored field of seven other turf fillies and mares for Saturday’s 55th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park.
The 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay is the first of five graded stakes over the holiday weekend at Belmont Park, with Monday’s Memorial Day card to feature the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, the Grade 1, $400,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap, the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn and the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point.
Trained by David Donk for William Punk, Jr. and Philip DiLeo, Hessonite angled out from behind a wall of horses in the stretch and rallied for a three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 4 in her 2013 debut. The Beaugay was the Freud mare’s fifth stakes start in open company, with her previous best finishes a second in the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial in 2012 at Parx Racing and a third in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs in 2011 at Monmouth Park.
Saturday, she’ll be facing a talented group, six of whom began their careers in Europe, including the Graham Motion-trained duo of Strathnaver (4-1) and Julie’s Love (6-1) and multiple graded stakes winner Starformer (7-2) from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“It’s a competitive field, but it will give us a little line on what path we want to take with her this summer,” said Donk of Hessonite, the champion New York-bred older mare of 2012. “She’s been training well – she had a nice breeze the other day [six furlongs in 1:14.50] – and we’ll see what happens.”
Junior Alvarado will ride Hessonite, the 5-2 favorite on the morning line, when she leaves from post position 5.
Strathnaver, a 4-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream, was sent to Motion’s barn this year after compiling a record of 2-1-0 from nine starts in Great Britain. Her American debut came in March at Gulfstream Park, where she scored a three-quarter-length victory in an optional claimer, and a month later she became a graded stakes winner with an 18-1 upset of the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland Race Course.
Motion, who won last year’s Sheepshead Bay with Aruna, also has entered 5-year-old Julie’s Love, sharp winner of the Owsley overnight stakes on May 1 at Belmont. Bred in Great Britain, where she began her career, the Ad Valorem mare came to the United States last year and fashioned a 3-2-1 record from seven starts, including a half-length victory in the De La Rose at Saratoga Race Course.
Jockey Joel Rosario returns aboard Strathnaver, who drew post position 6, with Javier Castellano named to ride Julie’s Love, who drew post position 2.
Finishing fourth in her stateside bow was Anjaz, who rallied from ninth in the Grade 3 Orchid on March 30 at Gulfstream Park. The Godolphin Racing color-bearer, 1-0-1 in five starts in Great Britain, has been training forwardly for Tom Albertrani, most recently breezing five furlongs in 1:03.78.
“I thought she ran well in that race, considering she got off to a poor start,” said Albertrani. “It took her out of her game, as she likes to be closer. She managed to make up a lot of ground despite that, and finish strong. I’m hoping with that one race we can move forward off that.”
Trainer Christophe Clement will try for his fifth career victory in the Sheepshead Bay with Mystical Star, who rebounded from a disqualification in last year’s edition to take the Grade 2 New York. The Ghostzapper mare opened her 5-year-old campaign with a third in the Grade 3 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs, and then was fourth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland.
“She got beat the other day at Keeneland; I think she’s a better filly for the race,” said Clement. “Unfortunately, the race will be very competitive, but that’s the way it is. She’s doing well.”
Jose Lezcano will ride Mystical Star, 5-1 on the morning line, from post position 7.
Rounding out the field are the Irish-bred Tannery, fourth to Julie’s Love in the Owsley, and French import Minakshi, second by a half-length in the Owsley in her first North American start.
The field for the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay: