by Keith McCalmont
Moyglare Stud Farm’s dual group stakes-winner Malavath will look to secure her first stateside score in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel, a one-mile inner turf test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Belmont at the Big A.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the 4-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Mehmas captured the 2021 Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte at Chantilly and the Group 3 Prix Impudence last April at Deauville for her former conditioner Francis-Henri Graffard.
Malavath completed her sophomore season with a trio of top-flight tries, finishing a close fourth in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild last August at Deauville and posting a runner-up effort to Kinross in October in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret. She was a rallying fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Keeneland to close out her campaign when 1 3/4-lengths back of the victorious Modern Games.
Moyglare Stud Farm then purchased Malavath for more than $3.3 million from the Arqana December Breeding Stock Sale and sent her to Clement’s care at Payson Park in Florida. She made her debut for current connections in April when a distant fifth in the one-mile Plenty of Grace here and returned two month’s later to land sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Eatontown at Monmouth Park, finishing 6 1/2-lengths back of next-out graded stakes-winner Consumer Spending.
The chestnut has breezed back 11 times, including a bullet half-mile in 49 seconds flat Friday over the Oklahoma training turf.
“She had two starts so far for us, they were rather disappointing,” said Clement, who shares the record for most Noble Damsel scores of five with Chad Brown. “We didn’t run her after the race in New Jersey, we opted to give her some time and regroup. Her works have been nice on the turf at Saratoga and it’s time to go on again.”
Out of the New Approach mare Fidaaha, Malavath is a full-sister to Group 3-winner Knight, who is currently in training with Simon and Ed Crisford.
Joel Rosario retains the mount from post 4 aboard Malavath, who is assigned 122 pounds.
Marylou Whitney Stables’ Kentucky homebred Not So Close [post 3, Jose Lezcano, 122 pounds] enters from a gate-to-wire score traveling one mile over good going on August 17 at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Norm Casse, Not So Close made her first six starts over the main track, including frontrunning scores in an off-the-turf one-mile maiden special weight last July at Ellis Park and in an optional-claiming route in March at Fair Grounds. She finished a close second in her turf debut on July 1 at Ellis Park ahead of her Spa score which the third-place finisher, Sister Lou Ann, exited to win the One Dreamer at Kentucky Downs.
Not So Close, by Empire Maker, is out of the Mineshaft mare Bird Legacy, who is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winners Birdstone and Bird Town.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, who took this event five straight years from 2016-2020, will be represented by multiple graded stakes-winner Fluffy Socks [post 5, Manny Franco, 126 pounds], Grade 1-winner Gina Romantica [post 6, Flavien Prat, 122 pounds] and the Grade 2-winner Gerrymander [post 7, Jose Ortiz, 122 pounds], who makes her turf debut.
Head of Plains Partners’ Kentucky homebred Fluffy Socks has enjoyed a lightly-raced but productive 5-year-old campaign, taking the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile in May at Churchill Downs and finishing a last-out second in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa on August 24 at Saratoga when a head back of Evvie Jets. Her other effort this year was a non-threatening fifth in July in the Spa’s Grade 1 Diana.
The 5-year-old Slumber mare boasts past graded scores in the 2020 Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at Del Mar and the 2021 Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont Park.
Peter Brant’s Gina Romantica won 4-of-7 starts last year, including an impressive 1 3/4-length score over stablemate McKulick in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in October at Keeneland to cap her campaign.
The 4-year-old Into Mischief bay, a half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Gift Box, was purchased for $1,025,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She has made two starts this year, finishing fourth in the Eatontown ahead of a runner-up effort to Fev Rover on August 12 in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Colonial Downs.
Gerrymander, a 4-year-old Into Mischief bay, boasts a record of 13-3-4-2 for purse earnings of $509,500. She has done most of her best work over Big Sandy, finishing second to Echo Zulu in the 2021 Grade 1 Frizette and posting wins in that year's Tempted and the Grade 2 Mother Goose last June.
A half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Lone Rock, Gerrymander is out of the graded stakes-placed Hard Spun mare Ruby Lips, who is a half-sister to multiple turf stakes-winner Like a Gem - the dam of multiple Grade 1-winning turfer Hard Not to Like.
Rounding out the field is five-time winning New York-bred Sunset Louise [post 1, Kendrick Carmouche, 122 pounds] for trainer Bruce Levine; and the Linda Rice-trained multiple graded stakes-placed New York-bred Runaway Rumour [post 2, Dylan Davis, 122 pounds], who is cross-entered in Friday’s $125,000 John Hettinger for state-breds.
With the National Weather Service calling for a 60 percent chance of rain Saturday in Ozone Park, additional main-track only entrants are graded stakes-winner Battle Bling, multiple graded stakes-placed Venti Valentine, stakes-winner Balpool, five-time winner Movie Moxy and stakes-placed Bustin Bay.
The Noble Damsel is slated as Race 7 on Saturday’s 10-race card which also features the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole in Race 3. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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