by NYRA Press Office
Bridlewood Farm, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael B. Tabor's Marconi quickly recovered from an unpromising break under jockey Jose Lezcano to capture Saturday's $300,000 1 1/2-mile Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational by three lengths in front-running fashion.
The win gave the son of Tapit his fourth victory of the year and third at Belmont from four starts over the Big Sandy surface for conditioner Todd Pletcher.
Marconi kicked off his campaign with a fourth-place finish in an optional claiming race at Gulfstream, and followed with a win in the Skip Away before shipping home to Belmont to win the Flat Out on May 9 followed by a victory in the Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Brooklyn Invitational in June.
"It was a nice victory yesterday," said Byron Hughes assistant to Pletcher. "It wasn't an ideal break, but Jose did a good job of getting him up to the front and not overextending him to do it. Thankfully, it all worked out and he seems to have come out of it in good shape and ate everything up last night. We were all pretty pleased with the performance."
The Pletcher barn also picked up a victories on Saturday with Halladay in a turf allowance and with Alpha Sixty Six, who won his debut for owner Paul Pompa, Jr.
A son of freshman sire Liam's Map with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Alpha Sixty Six settled in fifth-position early and went four-wide into the upper stretch, closing strong to finish the 6 1/2-furlong contest a neck in front at the wire.
A $400,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling sale, Alpha Sixty Six earned a 72 Beyer Speed Figure.
"That was a nice victory from him," said Hughes. "He was a little wide on the turn but he kicked home and outdueled his opponents so it was very impressive. He's also come out of the race in good shape."
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso breezed four furlongs in 49.40 seconds on Friday on the Belmont main track in preparation for the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday, September 28.
It was the first workout at Belmont for the 4-year-old Curlin colt since returning from Saratoga where he was an early morning scratch in the Grade 1 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets on August 24.
"He worked Friday morning with Off Topic and I thought it was a good work," said Hughes. He did it in 49 [seconds] and change and galloped out strong."
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Catholic Boy comes out of breeze in good order, on target for G2 Kelso
Six-time graded stakes-winner Catholic Boy came out of his breeze on Saturday in good order and is slated to make his next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap on September 21 at Belmont Park, trainer Jonathan Thomas said Sunday.
The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready, who has won Grade 1 stakes on both turf and dirt, including the 2018 Runhappy Travers, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Belmont's dirt training track yesterday and remains on target to race for the first time since running second in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 6 on Big Sandy.
Catholic Boy, wearing blinkers with regular jockey and Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard, recorded his first workout at Belmont since the run-up to the Suburban. He had three workouts at Saratoga in August before Thomas decided to skip the Grade 1 Woodward and instead look to the fall meet.
"We were really pleased with his breeze yesterday and it looked like he came out of it well," Thomas said. "The Kelso is certainly a target that we're going to go after."
The 39th running of the Kelso is a one-turn mile on the main track and the first time Catholic Boy has run at the distance since finishing fourth in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. Since then, he has won the 2017 Grade 2 Remsen and the Travers on dirt and the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge and the Grade 1 Belmont Derby last year on turf.
Thomas cited the Kelso's timing, which would also keep open the possibility of running in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile or the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita.
"We felt the timing of the race was good for where we are in the training," Thomas said. "It's also in our backyard and it makes sense to try it."
In two starts this year, Catholic Boy, owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, won the Grade 2 Dixie at 1 1/16 miles on the Pimlico Race Course turf and returned to the main track in running second to Preservationist in the 1 ¼-mile Suburban, earning a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. Only his 104 for the Travers win last year was higher in his 12-race career.
Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Peaceful made her stakes debut on Friday, running fourth in the Christiecat for 3-year-old fillies on the Belmont turf.
Unraced as a juvenile, the Declaration of War filly ran second in her debut on June 16 at Monmouth Park and broke her maiden on July 13 at Saratoga before stepping up in class on Belmont's Opening Day.
"We're very proud of her. The ground was probably softer than she liked," Thomas said. "I think it might have compromised her a little bit. We'll make no excuse for that, but we're proud of her effort anyway. We're not sure what we'll do next, we'll look at the stakes schedule. We can bring her back [in an allowance] at Belmont going three-quarters."
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New additions to Clement barn set to make North American debut
Trainer Christophe Clement recently welcomed new acquisitions to the barn from Europe, all of which worked over the Belmont Park turf course on Sunday morning.
Grade and Group 1-placed East, second to Newspaperofrecord in last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in her lone North American start, worked a half-mile in 48.48 which was the chestnut daughter of Frankel's second work for her new trainer.
Previously trained by Kevin Ryan, East began her career with two victories including a win in the Group 3 Prix Thomas Byron Jockey Club de Turquie last October at Saint Cloud.
A recent fifth in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild on July 28 at Deauville to six-time Group 1 winner Laurens, Clement said that East could make her debut for the barn in the $200,000 Pebbles on September 14 at Belmont.
"East worked very well. She looked very good," Clement said. "We'll bring her back later on. The Pebbles is a possibility. We'll see how she comes out of her work but she went very well. She's trained well and she's been with us for a while. She came straight to Belmont and has been getting used to her new surroundings."
Clement said stakes winner Feel Glorious, who worked a half-mile in 48.88 on Sunday morning, could also target the Pebbles.
Another new addition to the Clement barn is Group 2 winner Knight To Behold, who went an easy half-mile in 52.85 in his first breeze for Clement. The son of Sea The Stars was a recent third in the Group 2 Sky Bet York Handicap in July for former trainer Harry Dunlop and was second to subsequent Group 1 winner Crystal Ocean in his 2019 debut in the Group 3 Gordon Richards on April 24 at Sandown. A three-time winner of ten career starts, Knight To Behold defeated eventual two-time Group 1 winner Kew Gardens in his third career start at Lingfield.
Loupacate, a two-time winner in France who has been with Clement since November, will likely make his North American debut later this month after working a half-mile in 52.85 on Sunday morning.
"Loupacate is going to get close to a race later on this month," Clement said. "Knight To Behold had his first breeze here today. He's a lovely horse and a beautiful mover. It was his first easy work and we didn't ask much of him. I thought he acted right. There was no stress, we'll just see how he comes out of it and see how he adapts and we'll find him a spot later on."
Clement also reported that Grade 1-placed Chipolata, who worked a half-mile in 49.49 seconds on Sunday morning, could point to the Grade 3, $200,000 Noble Damsel on September 21.
"It was an easy work but she looked good. She could come back in the Noble Damsel," Clement said.
Rounding out Clement's Sunday turf workers were New York-breds Munchkin Money and Wegetsdamunnys, who breezed their half-miles in a respective 50.50 and 50 flat and could point to the $125,000 John Hettinger on September 22.
A veteran of 23 starts, the 6-year-old Munchkin Money is a seven-time winner and was twice second against her Empire State-bred counterparts this season in the Mount Vernon and the last out Yaddo at Saratoga Race Course. A four time winner, Wegetsdamunnys was fourth in both the Mount Vernon and Yaddo with a victory against New York-breds at Saratoga between starts.
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War of Will posts another bullet in preparation for G1 Pennsylvania Derby
Gary Barber's War of Will, under exercise rider Amy Mullen, breezed a bullet five furlongs in 59 flat on the Belmont main track on Saturday in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on September 21.
"He ended up going a little faster than we anticipated on paper, but the track had a little water in it. I think the track was pretty fast," said Jamie Begg, assistant to trainer Mark Casse. "He did it very easily. He broke off and I was going to tell the rider to pick it up, but he hit the first quarter in 12 and 1 and it looked slower than that. He picked it up down the lane a bit even though she didn't move on him."
The War Front bay contested all three legs of the Triple Crown including a win in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 18. Following a ninth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, War of Will set the pace in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets on July 27 before fading to fifth.
War of Will breezed twice at Saratoga following the Jim Dandy, both bullet works, and Begg said the colt will likely ship to Parx on the day of the race.
"He'll have an easy maintenance breeze next weekend. He's doing really well," said Begg. "His work yesterday, he did it easier than he did it at Saratoga. It was supposed to be a stiff breeze, but he seemed to get over the track very easily. We always knew he liked a bit of water in the track and I think that's why the time was so quick."
Begg said Tracy Farmer's multiple graded-stakes winner Perfect Alibi has come out of her Grade 1 Spinaway score in good order.
"She's come out of each race more and more alert," said Begg. "She was never a great work horse, but she's starting to get better with the more she runs. She's acting more like a racehorse in the mornings, which she always does in the afternoon."
The dark bay daughter of Sky Mesa graduated at first asking ahead of a good second in the Astoria at Belmont. She was perfect in two starts at Saratoga, including a win in the Grade 2 Adirondack at 6 1/2 furlongs before her seven furlong Spinaway score.
Begg said Perfect Alibi should improve with added distance with the Grade 1, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades at 1 1/16-miles on October 4 at Keeneland a possible target.
"Her pedigree and the way she runs shows that," said Begg. "She's never all that close to the pace. I think she'll only continue to improve. She could be something special. She's already a very good looking filly."