Lake Lucerne seeks first stakes score in G3 Athenia; Maxfield to breeze Saturday at Belmont for G1 Woodward
by NYRA Press Office
- Lake Lucerne seeks first stakes score in G3 Athenia; Maxfield to breeze Saturday at Belmont for G1 Woodward
- Fletcher poised for second straight G2 Gallant Bloom win with Lady Rocket
- Brown, Sciacca approaching milestone victories
- Informative to skip G2 Kelso
- Belmont Park week 3 stakes probables
Godolphin homebred Lake Lucerne will look to secure her first career stakes win in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia, a nine-furlong inner turf test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Belmont Park.
The Athenia is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which also features the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap in Race 4, a one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up headlined by Life Is Good.
Lake Lucerne, a 4-year-old Dubawi bay, is out of the multiple Grade 1-winning Awesome Again mare Round Pond. She enters from a narrow nose score in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming event on September 1 at the Spa.
Trained by Brendan Walsh, Lake Lucerne launched her career in England with trainer John Gosden which included a maiden score in March 2020 at Chelmsford.
Lake Lucerne closed to finish fourth in her North American debut in February at Gulfstream Park and followed with a 3 1/4-length allowance score in May traveling 1 1/16-miles on the Churchill Downs turf.
“She's a lovely filly. Ever since she's come to us she hasn't done too much wrong,” Walsh said. “I thought she ran great at Saratoga and there's still some improvement in her as there is with a lot of the Dubawis as they get a little older. She's got to improve a little to figure tomorrow, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if she's there or thereabouts.”
Walsh has tasked Jose Lezcano with engineering a winning trip from the inside post in a five-horse field led by the Chad Brown-trained duo of Pocket Square and Miss Teheran.
“I think the mile and an eighth might actually be her best distance. We'll let her find her feet and hopefully the race will pan out to fit her,” Walsh said.
Godolphin homebred Maxfield is expected to breeze Saturday at Belmont under regular rider Jose Ortiz in preparation for the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward, a nine-furlong test for 3-year-olds and up slated for October 2 at Belmont.
“Jose knows the horse well and rides him great. He'll give him a little spin tomorrow morning,” Walsh said. “He's done all his hard work but we'll let him get a feel of the track and that should put us spot on for next Saturday.”
The 4-year-old Street Sense colt boasts a perfect in-the-money record of 9-7-1-1 with purse earnings in excess of $1.4 million. Last out, Maxfield matched a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure with a runner-up effort to Knicks Go in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Whitney on August 7 at Saratoga.
Walsh said Maxfield should be able to handle the one-turn Woodward, which he will use as a springboard to the 10-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, a two-turn test in November at Del Mar.
“He has that high cruising speed and it should suit. He'll be able to get into a nice rhythm down the back and hopefully run the turn like he does and finish out the race well,” Walsh said. “It will be interesting to see how he does at the one-turn distance and I think it will put some speed into him as well, which he's going to need at Del Mar.”
Maxfield won his first five career outings, capturing the 2019 Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in just his second career start. He entered the Whitney off consecutive Grade 2 scores at Churchill Downs in the Alysheba in April, which garnered a 105 Beyer, and the Stephen Foster in June that registered a 103.
Fletcher poised for second straight G2 Gallant Bloom win with Lady Rocket
Owner Frank Fletcher said he is cautiously optimistic as he seeks a second straight victory in the Grade 2, $250,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap on Sunday at Belmont, sending out Lady Rocket for her graded stakes debut in the 6 ½-furlong event over the main track.
The Arkansas born and based owner’s black and red silks found the Belmont winner’s circle in the 2020 Gallant Bloom when heavily-favored Frank’s Rockette glided home to a 7 ¼-length victory. This year, Fletcher, who owns Lady Rocket in partnership with Ten Strike Racing, finds himself as one of the underdogs as the 4-year-old Tale of the Cat filly takes on Grade 1-winner Bella Sofia and graded stakes winner Lake Avenue.
Trained by reigning Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Brad Cox, Lady Rocket enters the Gallant Bloom off two winning efforts sprinting seven furlongs while displaying different tactics. After an off-the-pace triumph in a second-level allowance optional claiming event on May 23 at Churchill Downs, Lady Rocket emerged off three months’ rest to lead at every point of call in the Pink Ribbon on August 27 at Charles Town.
Lady Rocket broke sharply under Florent Geroux in the Pink Ribbon and was under a drive around the far turn. Confronted by Landing Zone and graded stakes winner Queen Nekia in upper stretch, Lady Rocket shook off the challenge and drew off a 1 ¾-length winner.
“She’s stepping way up. She certainly will be testing her upper limit, but this is a good race for her,” Fletcher said. “I thought she ran exceedingly well last time. She came out, went to the lead and it was the type of race that concerned you. Those other two horses came right up to her, but in that last eighth of a mile, she turned it on again. She looked like was going to get passed, but she found another gear and ran away.”
Never worse than fourth in eight lifetime starts, Lady Rocket missed her entire juvenile season with an injury and did not make her first start until last August. But it was well worth the wait for Fletcher, as the talented dark bay or brown filly dazzled on debut at Saratoga en route to defeating winners two months later at Keeneland.
“She’s just a horse that’s slowly improving,” Fletcher said. “She’s really gained stretch as she got older. She’s going to face some big time horses in here. We don’t know if we’re over our head or not.”
Fletcher said he has received nothing but positive reports from Cox as Lady Rocket faces her ultimate test. She has worked twice at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Gallant Bloom, most recently going five furlongs in a sharp 59.80 on September 18.
“I think Brad Cox is the magic man,” Fletcher said. “I give all the credit to him and the strategy he’s used. He believes in her and moved her up. He said she’s worked better in the last 30 days since he had her.”
Fletcher reflected on last year’s win with Frank’s Rockette, who gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his second Gallant Bloom victory.
“He’s quite a trainer,” Fletcher said. “Last year, Frank’s Rockette ran away from everyone, so it was an easy victory. It was a really nice race for her to win. This year, there’s a few ones in there that will be tough, but our horse is doing excellent.”
Frank’s Rockette, a homebred daughter of leading sire Into Mischief, has been favored and in the money in all five starts this season. She was a troubled third beaten a neck last out in the Seeking the Pearl on August 23 at Colonial Downs.
“She had a terrible break out of the gate at Colonial. It was a case of we thought we were going to win,” Fletcher recalled. “I flew up for the race, I had never been to that track before. She got left at the gate and I think it was one of the fastest times of the meet. The horses that ran one-two [Cheetar and Never Enough Time] were flying and we couldn’t catch them. It was pretty close at the end but she’s in good shape. Her next race will be at Churchill Downs.”
Fletcher said the Mott-trained maiden winner Rocket One, who graduated at third asking in a one-mile maiden event at Kentucky Downs on September 5 has great potential.
The Into Mischief dark bay, bought for $600,000 out of the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale from consigner Glennwood Farm, made up a dozen lengths to win by 1 ½ lengths over good turf.
Rocket One was a lackluster ninth on debut in a June 26 Churchill Downs maiden event won by subsequent Grade 1 Hopeful victor Gunite, but showed vast improvement at second asking when finishing third beaten 1 ½ lengths going 1 1/16 miles over the Ellis Park turf.
“He’s one of our most exciting newcomers,” Fletcher said. “We were always excited about him. Eddie Woods told me he was one of the better horses I owned. We ran him short first out in a maiden going six furlongs on dirt. He just loped along, but Mott told me not to get too disappointed and said he was a two-turn horse that needs to develop some more. At the end of his second race, I felt like he was ready to get going. Next race, I said I would get on a plane and go see him. So that’s why I went to Kentucky Downs. He really ran a great race.”
While his lone start on dirt was not a stellar one, Fletcher said he has not given up hope that Rocket One can be a dual surface horse and hopes to see him run at Oaklawn Park this winter.
“Eventually I would like to run him at Oaklawn, but I’m sure we’ll run him at Keenland or Churchill on the turf for his next race,” Fletcher said.
Rocket One is out of the Afleet Alex mare London Mist, whose other four progeny of racing age are all winners.
Brown, Sciacca approaching milestone victories
Milestone triumphs are on the horizon for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown and veteran New York conditioner Gary Sciacca.
Brown is closing in on his 100th graded stakes victory at Belmont Park, and will saddle a pair of fillies in search of this feat with Pocket Square and Miss Teheran in the Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia on Saturday in Race 10 [5:58 p.m.].
Brown, a 14-time leading trainer at Belmont, has posted 99 graded-stakes wins at Belmont according to Equibase records, dating back to a triumph in the 2008 Miss Grillo [a Grade 3 in that year] with Karen Woods’ Maram. Nearly a third of Brown’s graded stakes coups at Belmont took place at Grade 1 level, including six victories in the Manhattan, five Flower Bowl wins, and four straight Just a Game triumphs [2017-20].
[Read more about Brown's record chase here: https://www.nyra.com/belmont/news/%E2%80%8Bchad-brown-closing-in-on-100-graded-stakes-wins-at-belmont-park]
Sciacca, 61, is in search of his 1,000th career win in North America, currently owning 998 lifetime victories per Equibase.
The Brooklyn native and winner of two Belmont training titles [1993 spring and 1997 fall], will saddle Crossing Verazanno [Race 9, Eric Cancel, 15-1] on Friday. On Sunday, Sciacca sends out Addicted to You [Race 2, Eric Cancel, 20-1], as well as main-track only entrant Amity Island [Race 10, Eric Cancel, 6-1] and also-eligible entrant Happy Hill Lil [Race 10, Eric Cancel, 12-1].
Informative to skip G2 Kelso
Owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis said Informative will likely scratch from Saturday’s Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont in favor of racing on his home track in the Parx Dirt Mile.
“Most likely he won’t be coming. I have seven horses racing here on Saturday,” said St. Lewis, who will also saddle Forewarned in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup on Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby undercard.
Informative captured the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on June 12 at Monmouth Park, winning at 79-1 odds in besting Grade 1-placed Ny Traffic by one length, garnering a career-best 97 Beyer.
The 4-year-old Bodemeister colt finished off-the-board in his last two starts when fifth in the 10-furlong Grade 2 Suburban on July 3 over a sloppy and sealed Belmont track, and seventh in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on August 27.
Informative, a $25,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2019 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, sports a ledger of 27-3-3-1 with purse earnings of $270,290.
Belmont Park week 3 stakes probables
Friday, October 1
$125K John Hettinger
Probable: Chocolate Cookie (Todd Pletcher), Classic Lady (Christophe Clement), Dancingwthdaffodls (Eduardo Jones), Ice Princess (Danny Gargan), Myhartblongstodady (Jorge Abreu), Pecatonica (Tom Bush), Two Cent Tootsie (Tom Albertrani)
Saturday, October 2
Probable: Art Collector (Bill Mott), By My Standards (Bret Calhoun), Code of Honor (Shug McGaughey), Dr Post (Pletcher), Maxfield (Brendan Walsh)
Possible: Forza Di Oro (Mott)
G1 Champagne BC WAYI
Probable: Gunite (Steve Asmussen), Jack Christopher (Chad Brown), Kavod (James Chapman), My Prankster (Pletcher), Wit (Pletcher)
Possible: Affable Monarch (Jorge Duarte, Jr.), Don’t Wait Up (Anthony Dutrow)
G2 Miss Grillo
Probable: Charlee O (Michelle Nevin), Hail to (Albertrani), Hope Over Fear (Mott), Kinchen (C. Brown), McKulick (C. Brown), Philly Eagles (Mark Casse), Sail By (Leah Gyarmati)
G3 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational
Probable: Backtohisroots (John Terranova), Buy Land and See (Dutrow), Fast Getaway (Oscar Barrera III), Pulsate (Robert Ribaudo)
Possible: Caravel (Graham Motion), Maxwell Esquire (Clement)
Sunday, October 3
G1 Frizette BC WAYI
Probable: A Mo Reay (Pletcher), Echo Zulu (Asmussen), Frosty Brew (McGaughey), Gerrymander (C. Brown), Jester Calls Nojoy (Pletcher), Jumeirah (Carlos David), Saucy Lady T (Chapman)
Possible: Juju’s Map (Brad Cox)
Probable: Annapolis (Pletcher), Doctor Jeff (Rudy Rodriguez), Kiss the Sky (Maker), Limited Liability (McGaughey), Portfolio Company (C. Brown)
Possible: Shimmering Leroid (Brenda McCarthy)
G3 Fasig-Tipton Waya
Probable: Always Shopping (Pletcher), Call Me Love (Clement), Cat’s Pajamas (Motion), Lovely Lucky (Albertrani), My Sister Nat (C. Brown), Orglandes (C. Brown), Sister Otoole (Motion)
Possible: Magic Attitude (Arnaud Delacour), Micheline (Michael Stidham)