Magic Attitude conjures stretch drive power to win Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1)
by Brian Bohl
Lael Stable's Magic Attitude showed the form that made her a group-stakes winner in France, rallying from last-of-five before overtaking pacesetter Antoinette at the top of the stretch and drawing away to a 2 1/4-length victory in her North American debut in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.
Magic Attitude, out of Group 1-winner Margot Did, won the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux in May at France's famed Longchamp course when racing off a nearly eight-month layoff for former conditioner Fabrice Chappet.
Transferred to the care of trainer Arnaud Delacour after arriving from Europe, Magic Attitude immediately took to her new surroundings, breaking well from post 2 before settling at the back under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano as Antoinette led the field through a quarter-mile in 24.89 seconds, the half in 49.99, three-quarters in 1:14.17 and one mile in 1:37.91 on the firm inner turf course.
Out of the final turn, Antoinette, under fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez, maintained the advantage, but Castellano set his charge down and used her late closing speed to take control from the outside and power to the finish in a final time of 2:01.14 for the 1 1/4-mile course.
"I really like the way she did it," Castellano said. "Watching the replays, it seemed like she could be a little bit keen. She always seemed to break well out of the gate and get good forward position in Europe. Today, she broke OK. I tried to cover up a little bit. It was her first time in the country and a mile and a quarter and you always have to save something for the end. She sat beautifully behind the speed. She had a nice rhythm. When I asked her turning for home at the quarter pole, she just took off really well. I was very excited to see the way she did it today."
Bred in Great Britain by Katsumi Yoshida, Magic Attitude is a full-sister to 2018 Group 2 Prix de Sandringham winner Mission Impassible, who is also multiple Grade/Group 1-placed. She came to North America with experience running against high caliber competition, finishing second in the 10-furlong Group 1 Prix Saint Alary in June at Chantilly in a race won by the undefeated Tawkeel, who then captured the Group 2 Prix de la Nonette at Deauville.
Last out, in the Group 1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly, Magic Attitude finished a strong fifth, defeated three lengths to Fancy Blue, in a loaded edition of the 1 5/16-miles test known as the French Oaks. She went off as the even-money favorite on Saturday, returning $4.30 on a $2 win wager.
"The pace was a little bit of a concern," Delacour said. "With a five-horse field, you never know what's going to happen, but it didn't change her running style as that's how she likes to race. Javier timed it perfectly and she came with a good kick.
"Two starts ago [in the Saint Alary], they were surprised because she was a little revved up and she never settled," he added. "They couldn't cover her up and she was pretty aggressive. Ever since, they've been trying to get her to relax. So, we tried to work her in the same way in the morning and put her behind horses and come with a nice run and that's what she duplicated in the afternoon. It was very exciting."
Antoinette, the 6-5 selection for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, finished 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Neige Blanche for second. The versatile Hard Spun filly is 3-1-4 in nine career starts and has earned blacktype in all four of her graded stakes appearances, running third in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on dirt in July at Saratoga Race Course as well as in the Grade 3 Wonder Again in June on the Belmont turf and the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on the main track.
Setting the Mood and Key Biscayne completed the order of finish.
"It worked out the way we thought," Velazquez said. "We went to the lead which is where her best races have been run. I asked her to run and she responded right away, but a better horse beat us today."
Added Mott: "We had the spot we wanted, and Johnny said she kicked for us. She ran. The other one just rolled on by."
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 10-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.