by NYRA Press Office
· European invader Toskana Belle flies the banner for multiple nations in G3 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational
· Ribaudo trainee ready for Daunt-ing task in G3 Caesars Jockey Club Derby
· Belmont at the Big A Week 2 stakes probables
Australian Bloodstock’s Toskana Belle will be representing multiple flags when making her North American debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks, a 1 3/8-mile inner turf test for sophomores fillies, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Bred in France and campaigned in Germany by trainer Andreas Wohler, Toskana Belle enters the final leg of the filly division of the Caesars Turf Triple series off a narrow triumph at 16-1 odds in the Group 1 Pries der Diana [German Oaks] on August 7 at Dusseldorf.
The chestnut daughter of Shamalgan, a multiple champion in the Czech Republic, displayed frontrunning speed in the 1 3/8-mile test over good ground and maintained her lead in the stretch drive, fending off a late rally from Wagnis to win by a head.
Luke Murrell, Director of Australian Bloodstock, said Toskana Belle should appreciate firm footing.
“She’s just desperate for the firmer ground and she’s really tough,” Murrell said. “In Australia, we call it a ‘dead track’ and that’s what she raced on the other day when she won the German Oaks. It’s not rock hard firm like you would get in the States or in Australia, but it’s certainly not mush or up to their fetlocks type either.”
Toskana Belle provided Australian Bloodstock with their third German Oaks victory, previously winning with Turfdonna  and Salomina . Murrell expressed interest in making the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on November 5 at Keeneland with Toskana Belle should she parlay her winning form on this side of the pond.
“We won the German Oaks a couple other times and she’s probably the best racehorse that we’ve won it with so far,” Murrell said. “There’s so much money to be won travelling these fillies and obviously you can get that firmer ground in the United States. Hopefully, she can have a good little campaign with this run and then maybe in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Prior to the German Oaks, Toskana Belle was third in the Group 3 Diana Trial going 10 furlongs on June 5 at Hoppegarten after posting a one-mile stakes win at Dusseldorf in May. She broke her maiden over good-soft ground in a nine-furlong test at Evreux in France.
“We’re heading in there with a bit confidence,” Murrell said. “Arguably, she could be unbeaten. She got a questionable ride in the Group 3 and the market sort of discounted her for the Oaks and that’s why she was such a big price.”
Murrell noted Toskana Belle’s strong gallop out in the German Oaks, in which she garnered a 105 Timeform Rating, and added that her efforts have appeared to be on par with that of her elder counterparts.
“I’ve got a real opinion of her. She’s the only horse in Germany all year to run equal to the older horses,” Murrell said. “All the other 3-year-olds the last couple of years haven’t been able to do that. She’s been able to run better times than them. She ran a record over in France and just has run fast times and fast splits. She’s not one of those typical 3-year-olds that will only be a 3-year-old, I think she’ll really train on next year and be able to compete in some top level stuff. Andreas seems very confident that she’s travelled well. She’s the right type to bring so hopefully she shows up.”
Australian Bloodstock, based in Newcastle, New South Wales, has garnered North American success before with Wohler, capturing the Grade 3 Belmont Gold Cup [now a Grade 2] in 2017 with Red Cardinal. Wohler also is no stranger to success in North America, shipping Silvano to the states in 2001 for a victorious engagement in the Grade 1 Arlington Million and won Woodbine’s Grade 2 Sky Classic in 2008 with Lauro.
“We have a select few, about a half-dozen in Europe, and around 100 to 150 here in Australia,” Murrell said. “I always look at America because there’s obviously a lot of black type races over there and it really adds something when you try to market these fillies if they have European and American form, a lot of the breeders like that. She’s just one of those horses that should absolutely love those conditions. She likes to be out on the front. She’s got a kick and a good turn of foot, and she’s got some heart about her. The only thing we wouldn’t want to see is a wet track.”
Murrell spoke highly of the German breeding program, which has produced American Grade 1-winners A Raving Beauty, winner of the Just a Game and First Lady in 2018, and 2005 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Shirocco.
“For a population that produces about 600 foals a year, they’ve got this staggeringly good record of producing world champion after world champion. They can certainly breed a top horse on the international stage,” Murrell said.
Should she win, Toskana Belle is sure to receive a flying dismount from internationally acclaimed rider Frankie Dettori, who will pilot the filly for the first time on Saturday. Dettori is also slated to climb aboard Grade 1 Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational winner Nations Pride for the Grade 3, $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby on the same day.
“He’s obviously bigger than life, Frankie,” Murrell said. “We were going to have Ryan Moore ride, but he had to ride one for Coolmore [Victoria Road in the Group 3 Prix de Conde at Chantilly]. We’ve had some luck with him in the past having won the [Group 1] Melbourne Cup [aboard Protectionist in 2014] with Ryan, but Frankie was good enough to hang around and ride for us. Andreas has won races with us before, we had Red Cardinal win over there a few years ago, so hopefully we can do it again.”
Ribaudo trainee ready for Daunt-ing task in G3 Caesars Jockey Club Derby
Marc Keller's Kentucky homebred Daunt will look to make the grade in Saturday's Grade 3, $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational, the 12-furlong final leg of the Caesars Turf Triple series for sophomores at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Trained by Robert Ribaudo, the Nyquist colt showed promise in his juvenile campaign, graduating at second asking last September at Belmont Park ahead of a close third in the Awad in November.
Daunt attended a slow pace set by gate-to-wire winner Emmanuel in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Pennine Ridge in June while making the second start of his sophomore campaign, settling for fifth while defeated just 2 1/2-lengths. He then made a trio of off-the-board starts at Saratoga Race Course in which he was twice hampered at the gate in double-digit fields before making a late run. The dark bay enters from a close fifth in a 1 3/16-mile allowance test on August 25 at the Spa.
Ribaudo said he is looking forward to stretching out Daunt, who is out of the Artie Schiller mare Promotional - a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning and $2 million earner Marketing Mix.
“A mile and a half was always our intent, if not this year then next year,” Ribaudo said. “His mother was a distance specialist - she was stakes-placed at a mile and a half [2nd in the 2017 Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland] and his dad won the Derby at a mile and a quarter. He's definitely bred to go long, so if you're going to take a shot this is as good a place as any.
“We bought the mare in foal to Nyquist and I've got a 2-year-old filly [Quarrel, by Speightstown] out of the mare that's doing very good. She's going to run next week,” added Ribaudo, who teamed up with Keller to capture a trio of turf Grade 1s with Grand Couturier [2007-08 Sword Dancer; 2008 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic]. “I think as far as the family goes, we're in good shape.”
Ribaudo said Daunt hasn’t developed as quickly as he would have hoped.
“Last year, this horse gave me a better feel and I was impressed when he broke his maiden and was third in the stake,” Ribaudo said. “I put him away for the winter thinking Pennine Ridge was the intent and from there he'll tell us. He didn't quite mature as much as I was hoping. I still think he'll be a better 4-year-old but at least we'll get to see what the mile and a half does for him.”
Daunt will be piloted for the first time Saturday by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, exiting post 5-of-6 at a morning-line assessment of 15-1.
Ribaudo noted that Daunt can be a tricky horse to ride.
“The mid-summer races at Saratoga, the distances weren't quite suited to him. He had minor issues in those races that most horses might have overcome,” Ribaudo said. “He seems to take it to heart at times when he's in traffic or in between horses. He's not the bravest horse in the world, so the smaller field here might help us a little bit.”
The Grade 3 Caesars Jockey Club Derby is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which also features the Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational in Race 7. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
Belmont at the Big A Week 2 stakes probables
Friday, September 23
$125K Joseph A. Gimma
Probable: Lady Mine [James Chapman], Les Bon Temps [Mike Maker], Miracle [Rodolphe Brisset], Security Code [Phil Serpe], Small Pebbles [Linda Dixon], Warsaichi [Chris Englehart]
Saturday, September 24
Probable: Love and Thunder [Chad Brown]
$125K Ashley T. Cole
Probable: Action Jackson [Jorge Abreu], Call Me Harry [Joe Sharp], City Man [Christophe Clement], Jerry the Nipper [Todd Pletcher], Sanctuary City [James Ferraro]
Possible: Cross Border [Maker]
Sunday, September 25
G2 Gallant Bloom
Probable: Kimari [Wesley Ward], Lady Rocket [Brad Cox], Remain Anonymous [Robert Falcone, Jr.], Sterling Silver [Tom Albertrani]
Possible: Assertive Style [Tom Morley], Cheetara [Ignacio Correas, IV], Fingal’s Cave [David Donk]
$125K Bertram F. Bongard
Probable: Blame It On Daddy [Albertrani]