McPeek looks to double up in G1 Belmont Derby Invitational with Mendelssohns March
Jul 4, 2023
News Image
Adam Coglianese Photo

McPeek looks to double up in G1 Belmont Derby Invitational with Mendelssohns March

by NYRA Press Office

  • McPeek looks to double up in G1 Belmont Derby Invitational with Mendelssohns March
  • Red Carpet Ready set for take two in G3 Victory Ride
  • Tawny Port moves to Clement barn and points to G2 Bowling Green
  • Early look at Saratoga Race Course Week 1 stakes probables

Harold Lerner, Nehoc Stables, AWC Stables and Team Stallion Racing Stable's stakes-placed Mendelssohns March will be upset minded in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational, a 10-furlong inner turf test for sophomores.

Trainer Kenny McPeek won this event last year with 26-1 shot Classic Causeway, who posted a gate-to-wire score over favored Nations Pride and second-choice Stone Age. This year, he returns with the improving Mendelssohns March, who enters from a close runner-up effort to returning rival Webslinger in the nine-furlong Audubon on June 3 at Churchill Downs.

The Mendelssohn colt graduated on debut in February via disqualification traveling one-mile over firm Fair Grounds turf. He made his next two starts on dirt, winning an optional-claimer at Oaklawn in March over sloppy and sealed conditions before finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland. Mendelssohns March returned to grass in May and finished ninth in the Grade 2 American Turf when defeated 4 3/4-lengths by Webslinger.

“He's coming off a really good run. We know it's a tough race, but we think he's going to like the added distance,” McPeek said. “He's acting like he's quite ratable. He started his career really well, 2-for-2. This is an ambitious spot for him, we realize that, but you're not going to get many opportunities to run a mile and a quarter.”

The $110,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase is out of the Galileo mare Unappeased, who is a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Sligo Bay.

“He's a beautiful moving horse,” McPeek said. “I bought him as a yearling and with a Galileo mare, how can you go wrong with that. I really thought he was one of my top 3-year-olds and this is an opportunity to prove himself at a high level.”

McPeek said Mendelssohns March, who will exit the inside post Saturday under Dylan Davis, has trained very well upstate at Saratoga Race Course over the Oklahoma trainer turf, working in company with Walking L Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's promising filly Freydis the Red.

The French-bred daughter of Saxon Warrior will make her stakes debut in Saturday's co-featured Grade 1, $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks Invitational.

The 10-furlong inner turf test for sophomore fillies kicks off the Fasig-Tipton Fillies Turf Triple series, which is followed by the 1 3/16-mile Grade 3, $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational on August 4 at Saratoga Race Course and the Grade 3, $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Oaks Invitational on September 16 going 11 furlongs at Belmont at the Big A.

Freydis the Red completed the exacta on three occasions before breaking through last out at sixth asking on May 29 in a nine-furlong maiden special weight over firm Churchill turf. The 4 1/4-length score garnered a career-best 79 Beyer Speed Figure.

“I think she's a filly that's getting ready to move forward and I think she's another one we'd like to try at a mile and a quarter,” McPeek said. “The expectations are high for her. She ran really fast in her last race and if she can replicate that and maybe move a little bit forward off the added distance - obviously black type is important - to get her Grade 1-placed would be a big deal.”

McPeek purchased the chestnut, out of the Shirocco mare Songerie, for $147,403 from the Arqana Deauville August Yearling Sale.

“She was a real standout as a yearling,” McPeek said. “She was a little unlucky trying to get her maiden broke last year. But she really put it together in her last race.”

The late-running chestnut will exit post 8 under Junior Alvarado.

McPeek sent out a pair of multiple graded-stakes winning starters for Lucky Seven Stable in Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Ellis Park with Rattle N Roll [2nd] and Smile Happy [5th] performing admirably in the nine-furlong route won by West Will Power.

“They both came out of it fine,” McPeek said. “Smile Happy wasn't very cooperative going to the gate. We may try blindfolding him going to the starting gate next time, but he's historically been tough to deal with. Rattle N Roll is a consummate professional.”

Rattle N Roll, a 4-year-old Connect colt, captured the 2021 Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland as a juvenile. He entered the Stephen Foster on a three-race win streak in Grade 3 events, taking the 1 3/16-mile Ben Ali in April at Keeneland, the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special in May and the nine-furlong Blame in June at Churchill. 

He rallied from seventh in the Stephen Foster to finish a half-length in arrears of the winner, while earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure - his fifth consecutive triple-digit figure.

Smile Happy, a 4-year-old Runhappy colt, made the grade at second asking in the 2021 Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. He entered the Foster from a sharp score in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Alysheba in May at Churchill Downs, besting multiple Grade 1-winner Art Collector by two lengths with West Will Power in third.

McPeek said both horses will be nominated to the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney, a nine-furlong rest for older horses on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course which offers a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita Park.

MJM Racing's stakes-placed V V's Dream, a 2-year-old Mitole grey, romped by 6 1/4-lengths in her May debut sprinting five furlongs at Churchill Downs. She followed last out with a runner-up effort to Brightwork in the six-furlong Debutante on Sunday at Ellis Park.

McPeek said he wants to stretch out the $190,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase.

"She's a filly that needs longer than that," McPeek said. "She has a huge future. We'll probably sit on her until they run a mile and a sixteenth."

Back Racing, Run for LaRoses and Magdalena Racing's Call the Cavalryovercame a bobbled start to graduate on debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight here on June 4. 

McPeek said Call the Cavalry will target the Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford, a six-furlong main track sprint for juveniles on July 15 at Saratoga.

The Florida-bred Khozan colt is out of the Songandaprayer mare Song and Delight, who is a half-sister to multiple graded-stakes winner Delightful Kiss and graded-stakes winner Delightful Mary.


Red Carpet Ready set for take two in G3 Victory Ride

Ashbrook Farm and Upland Flats Racing’s dual graded stakes-winner Red Carpet Ready was set to make her Empire State debut in the June 8 Jersey Girl at Belmont Park, but had her plans derailed when poor air quality forced the cancelation of that day’s card. With clearer skies one month later, the Rusty Arnold trainee is back on track for a start in New York in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Victory Ride, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies, at Belmont. 

“She’ll be leaving from Keeneland tomorrow afternoon and arrives at Belmont on Thursday morning,” said Arnold. “She’s trained well and we had a little bit more of a gap than we wanted to have, but she’s had three good, solid works here. She’s happy and ready to go.” 

The daughter of Oscar Performance flaunts the most graded stakes experience in the field of eight and was last seen posting a gutsy head score over resurgent pacesetter Munnys Gold in the Grade 2 Eight Belles on May 5 at Churchill Downs. There, she pounced from just off the pace under Luis Saez to take command at the top of the lane and battle back against her game foe, handing the Todd Pletcher trainee her first loss in four outings. She was awarded a career-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest of any in the Victory Ride field. 

Arnold said he is hopeful Red Carpet Ready’s performance against a then-undefeated Munnys Gold bodes well for the challenge she’ll face against undefeated competitors Maple Leaf Mel and the Brad Cox-trained Dazzling Blue in the Victory Ride. 

“She ran well,” said Arnold. “Todd’s filly was undefeated and she’s going to hook two undefeated fillies in this race with Maple Leaf Mel and Brad’s filly – they’ve never been beaten and we have. There’s two very good fillies right there and a few other good ones as well. It’s a lot tougher race than the one we didn’t run in [the Jersey Girl].”

The talented dark bay has won 4-of-5 starts, including the Grade 3 Forward Gal in February at Gulfstream Park and the Fern Creek going the Victory Ride distance in November at Churchill. Her lone defeat came in the Grade 2 Davona Dale in March, where she finished third, seven lengths behind the victorious Dorth Vader, who went on to finish a close second to Pretty Mischievous in the Grade 1 Acorn presented by Great Jones Distilling Co. three starts later.

“I think six and a half [furlongs] will actually suit her better,” said Arnold. “When she ran in the Eight Belles, she opened up a clear lead at the sixteenth pole and hung on in the end, but I think that’s the end of how far she wants to go – six and a half won’t be an issue.” 

Red Carpet Ready’s career has been laced with ups and downs that have shaped its trajectory, for better or worse. Arnold had planned to debut the filly on turf considering her pedigree’s strong grass influence, but was forced to run her on dirt when Churchill canceled turf racing last fall. She relished a sloppy main track on debut in October, defeating a field of 12 by 10 lengths at odds of 36-1. 

“I guess she surprised some people in her first start, but she had shown ability,” said Arnold. “I think the surprise was the surface. She’s by Oscar Performance and at the time, there had not been a winner for him on the dirt. It’s a little different now, but last fall people questioned her pedigree, not her ability. When she won, everyone – including myself – thought it was the slop and weren’t convinced. But then she did it on fast dirt twice in a row and ran her big race in the Eight Belles.” 

With the cancelation of the Jersey Girl being the latest unexpected turn in Red Carpet Ready’s career, Arnold said he is hopeful it leads to a happy surprise on Saturday just as her affinity for the main track has. 

“She was one of the good things that happened to us off of losing the turf,” said Arnold. “It’s been a really weird year for her and she was going to run the last week at Churchill, but that was canceled. We had to decide to either wait for Ellis Park or go to New York. She was ready to roll so we decided to go to New York, and who would have thought it would be canceled by a fire in Canada? We’ve regrouped and I liked the timing of this race.” 

The Victory Ride is named in honor of the filly Arnold trained to victory in the 2001 Grade 1 Test, a race slated for August 5 that Red Carpet Ready could target provided she gives a strong performance Saturday. 

“I know stories don’t mean anything in this business, but after having trained Victory Ride, it would be nice to win this race,” said Arnold. “This race started off as almost an overnight handicap and now it’s worked its way up to a very nice prep for the Test. You’d like to have this [win photo] hanging there, but she’s going to have to work for it. The Test is the ultimate goal, but like the old cliché, one at a time. She has to take this step to get to the next ones.” 

Red Carpet Ready will emerge from post 8 in rein to Saez.


Tawny Port moves to Clement barn and points to G2 Bowling Green

Peachtree Stables’ dual graded stakes winner Tawny Port is a recent addition to the stable of trainer Christophe Clement and will look to try turf for his next start, according to his conditioner. 

Previously trained by Brad Cox, Tawny Port won last year’s Lexington at Keeneland and Ohio Derby at Thistledown - both Grade 3 events on dirt – after winning his first two starts over Turfway Park’s Tapeta surface. The 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt, seventh in last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, has been unplaced in three starts this year which all took place at graded stakes level. 

Tawny Port joined Clement’s division at Saratoga Race Course in May where he breezed three times over the Oklahoma training turf before moving downstate to Clement’s Belmont string. He breezed a half-mile in 49.75 seconds on June 25 over the Belmont inner turf and most recently went five furlongs in 1:02.34 over the main track on Saturday. 

Clement said Tawny Port could make his next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green on July 30 going 1 3/8 miles on turf at Saratoga.

“He’s trained well on the turf, so we’re going to try him on the turf to do something different,” Clement said. “He’s an older horse with very good form last year with his previous trainer. He’s lost his form a little bit, so the idea is to do something different.”

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Tawny Port is out of the graded stakes placed Macho Uno mare Livi Makenzie, who also produced graded stakes placed Broadway Lady. Tawny Port boasts a 12-4-1-1 record and $830,250 in earnings. 


Early look at Saratoga Race Course Week 1 stakes probables

Thursday, July 13

G3 Schuylerville 

Probable: Dancing Diana (James Lawrence, II), Kiss for Luck (Robert Reid, Jr.), Mila Junes (Kent Sweezey), Saratoga Secret (D. Wayne Lukas), Status Seeker (Rudy Rodriguez), Sugar Treat (Mark Casse) 

Friday, July 14

$150K Coronation Cup

Probable: Bosserati (Brittany Russell), Unified Alliance (Tom Morley), Wildhawk (Tom Albertrani) 

$135K Wilton

Probable: Accede (Chad Brown), Just Katherine (Jose Jimenez), Randomized (Brown), Sacred Wish (George Weaver)

Possible: Thirty Thou Kelvin (John Terranova) 

Saturday, July 15

G1 Diana

Probable: Fluffy Socks (Brown), In Italian (Brown), Marketsegmentation (Brown), Whitebeam (Brown)

Possible: Fev Rover (Casse)

G3 Kelso

Possible: Chez Pierre (Arnaud Delacour), Filo Di Arianna (Casse)

G3 Sanford 

Probable: Call the Cavalry (Kenny McPeek), Dickens (Juan Alvarado), Factor U and Me In (Edward Coletti, Jr.), Gold Sweep (Steve Asmussen), Lasso (Alvarado), Market Street (Lukas), My Boy Prince (Casse), Triple Trea (Barbara Minshall) 

Sunday, July 16

G3 Quick Call presented by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

Probable: Fit to Fly (Larry Rivelli), Gaslight Dancer (Mike Maker), Major Blue (Lukas), Son of a Birch (Morley), Uncashed (Rivelli) 

All News Stakes Advance Stakes Recap Headlines Notes Features

More Notes