by NYRA Press Office
• Olendon in fine fettle ahead of G1 Belmont Oaks
• O'Brien contingent train on the main ahead of Turf Triple series
• Fierce Lady to be offered at Fasig-Tipton July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale
• Action packed weekend awaits Jimmy Jerkens
• Holy Helena likely to stay in Canada
• Stars & Stripes Racing Festival features all graded-stakes Late Pick 5
Wonder Stables, Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Chris Mara and Robert Masiello's Olendon, trained by Pascal Bary, will make her North American debut in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational, the first leg of the Turf Tiara, during the Stars & Stripes Racing Festival.
The Le Havre filly, who will join Chad Brown's stable following the race, most recently finished second to well-regarded Siyarafina in the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary, a 1 1/4-mile test for sophomore fillies over good-to-soft going at Longchamp in France.
Olendon, a graduate of the Arqana August Yearling Sale at Deauville, will be piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from the inside post in the Belmont Oaks. She arrived in New York on Saturday in the care of travelling assistant Daphne Valentin.
"She's taken the trip very well and has been eating very well, which is a plus," said Valentin via translator.
In April, Olendon captured the Prix Finlande for three-year-olds over nine furlongs by three-quarters of a length. The late-running filly has trained on the Belmont main track since clearing quarantine on Wednesday, and Valentin said she is pleased with how the chestnut has adjusted.
"Wednesday was our first day at the track and she just had an easy jog," said Valentin. "On Thursday, she galloped on the main track and this morning we went for a gallop but a strike quicker down the stretch. She's moving very well and I'm very happy with how she's doing."
Valentin said a chance of light rain in the forecast for Saturday shouldn't bother Olendon.
"She doesn't like heavy ground, but a little bit of rain to take the sting out of the turf would be fine," said Valentin. "Good to firm turf is probably her best footing."
The Belmont Oaks is one of five stakes races for the Stars & Stripes Racing Festival card, including the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational, the Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban, the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer, and the Grade 2, $300,000 John A. Nerud, a Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" event offering a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
The Stars & Stripes festival will be part of a live national broadcast on NBC from 4 - 6 p.m. on Saturday.
O'Brien contingent train on the main ahead of Turf Triple series
Trainer Aidan O'Brien's Turf Triple contingent trained over the Belmont main track on Friday morning, as Blenheim Palace once again led the quartet, followed by fellow Belmont Derby contender Cape of Good Hope and the fillies Coral Beach and Just Wonderful, who will start in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational.
"They jogged one lap just around to the mile pole and they turned around and went from the 7 1/2 just back past the winning post, just a little bit quicker than yesterday," said O'Brien assistant T.J. Comerford. "They're fit and ready. We're just stretching their legs a little bit. They're in good order."
Cape of Good Hope, a full-brother to world-travelling multiple Group/Grade 1-winner Highland Reel, won the Investec Blue Riband Trial in April over 10 furlongs of good turf at Epsom. He finished fourth on June 2 in the Group 1 French Derby and last out was off-the-board in the Group 3 Hampton Court on soft turf at Ascot.
"His last run at Ascot was on soft and he didn't like it, but it was particularly soft," said Comerford. "His best run was in France in the French Derby when he finished fourth. He's a top of the ground horse. Especially when he won at Espom, he took his time and just came past them. That was a listed race, but he did it well that day."
Cape of Good Hope will leave from post 9 under Wayne Lordan.
Blenheim Palace, by Galileo and out of the Storm Cat dam Meow, is a full brother to stallion and four-time Group 1-winner Churchill. He will be piloted by Michael Hussey from post 11.
Blenheim Palace arrives at the Belmont Derby from a good second on June 29 in the Group 3 Full of Surprises International at the Curragh.
"We're putting blinkers on Blenheim Palace. He seems to be stepping up. When you put him in good company, he seems to run well," said Comerford. "He ran last weekend and finished second. He was second in the Derrinstown Derby Trial over a mile and a quarter and the horse that finished third [Sovereign] won the Irish Derby. There's form there. If he can keep running like he's running. He'll run a big race."
Just Wonderful, a bay daughter of Dansili out of the Montjeu mare Wading, won the Group 3 Flame of Tara Irish E.B.F. at the Curragh in September and two starts later was victorious in the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfel at Newmarket.
She launched her sophomore season in the Group 1 English 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, finishing sixth, defeated less than two lengths by Hermosa.
Just Wonderful, who comes from the same family as last year's Belmont Oaks-winner Athena, was eighth on June 21 last out in the Coronation at Ascot.
"If she puts the right foot forward, the form is there," said Comerford. "That run in the English Guineas was a very good run. If she could run back to that again, I'm sure she'll be on the premises."
Wayne Lordan will ride Just Wonderful from post 6.
Coral Beach, a bay daughter of Zoffany, graduated in October at Cork when sprinting six furlongs and came back to beat the boys ten days later in the Group 3 Killavullan at Leopardstown.
Coral Beach arrives at the Belmont Oaks from a good fourth in the Sandringham on June 21 at Ascot.
"She took on the colts [in the Killavulan] and she beat them well. It opened up on the rail for her and she beat our first string," said Comerford. "Her run at Ascot was encouraging because she came home well and finished fourth. It looks like the step up in trip will help her. "
Michael Hussey has the call on Coral Beach from post 3.
Fierce Lady to be offered at Fasig-Tipton July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale
Nice Guys Stables and Steve Hornstock's Fierce Lady, who turned heads with an impressive debut effort on June 22 at Belmont, will go through the sales ring on Monday at the Fasig-Tipton July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale in Lexington.
The dark bay daughter of Competitive Edge, out of the A.P. Jet mare Anjorie, was bred in New York by Sugar Maple Farm.
Trained by Dermot Magner, a former foreman for Todd Pletcher and later an assistant for Chad Brown, said the filly showed the makings of a good horse when purchased for $75,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
"I thought she was put together well. I worked for Todd Pletcher when Competitive Edge was there and I always liked him as a horse," said Magner. "Of the freshman sires, we thought he was one worth taking a chance on."
Fierce Lady debuted in a New York-bred five-furlong maiden tilt and leaving from the rail under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano showed good early speed through splits of 21.82 seconds, 44.49 and stopping the clock in 56.47 in a six-length front-running score.
"She worked from the gate here and showed some speed. She was drawn on the rail, which is always a worry but once she got to the lead going to the turn, I knew she'd run a big race. Javier rode her very well," said Magner.
Magner said Fierce Lady has blossomed following her successful debut.
"She's come out of the race well and has trained exceptionally well. She has an air of confidence about her since the win," said Magner. "She's scheduled to fly to Lexington on Sunday to go to the sale Monday night."
Fierce Lady is nominated to the Grade 3 Schuylerville, slated for Opening Day July 11 at Saratoga, but Magner said the filly is a better fit for the $100,000 Stillwater, a six-furlong sprint for New York-breds on July 18.
"The Schuylerville came back a little too soon. If she doesn't sell, she'll come back and join us at Saratoga and run in the Stillwater," said Magner.
Action packed weekend awaits Jimmy Jerkens
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who has won with five of his last eight starters, will look to finish out the Belmont Stakes spring/summer meet on a high note on the meet's final weekend with four stakes contenders for owner Centennial Farms.
The veteran trainer will saddle two contenders for Saturday's Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban with Grade 2 winner Rocketry and Preservationist,who makes his stakes debut.
A 5-year-old bay son of Hard Spun, Rocketry seeks his first victory since the Grade 2 Marathon in November at Churchill Downs and enters the mile-and-a-quarter event on the main track off three efforts behind fellow Suburban aspirant Marconi, two of which were runner-up finishes.
Rocketry, who breaks from post 3 under Joel Rosario, will race with blinkers in the Suburban.
"The horse has been so honest, but it might make a bit of a difference," Jerkens said of the equipment change. "I just hope they get to running early and chasing each other a little bit, and get a little tired so he can pick up some of the pieces."
Perhaps Rocketry's biggest claim to fame is breaking a long-time track record set by the great Man o' War when taking the 13-furlong Temperance Hill Invitational last September over the Belmont main track, stopping the clock in 2:40.18. He recorded a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in the Temperance Hill, which he then replicated in the next out Marathon.
Stablemate Preservationist breaks to the inside of Rocketry under Junior Alvarado and enters the Suburban off of a third-level allowance victory on May 23 over a sloppy Belmont Park main track, where he recorded a 101 Beyer.
The lightly-raced son of Arch has won four of seven career starts and Jerkens said Preservationist is in good order ahead of Saturday's test.
"He's always had the quality of a stakes horse," Jerkens said. "There was just something always happening to where we couldn't keep running him, but he's been real good lately. I had to take a chance. His last race was a legitimately good race."
Jerkens will send out stakes-winning sophomore Mihos off of a five-month layoff in the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer.
The son of second-crop sire Cairo Prince won the Mucho Macho Man in early January at Gulfstream Park before a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Holy Bull the following month.
Like the Dwyer, the Mucho Macho Man also is a one-turn mile, which Jerkens said suits Mihos. Jerkens said his main concern is the chance of rain that could hit the Elmont area on Saturday afternoon.
"I think that's his forte," Jerkens said of the one-turn mile. "I'm not going to be crazy about the mud if it rains. I don't think he cares for it too much. I don't think it would hinder the other ones too much, but he hates a lot of kickback. Getting hit with mud is worse than getting hit with regular dirt."
On Sunday, Candygram will make his stakes debut in Closing Day's $100,000 State Dinner - a mile-and-a-sixteenth open company stakes event over the main track.
Candygram, a 4-year-old bay colt by Candy Ride, enters the State Dinner off of two allowance victories, the most recent of which was a 5 ½-length win over the Belmont Park main track.
A winner in three of nine career starts, Candygram faces his toughest test yet in the State Dinner against graded-stakes winners Backyard Heaven, Prince Lucky and Sunny Ridge.
"There's a good horse of [trainer] Chad [Brown's] that's in there [Backyard Heaven]," Jerkens said. "Candygram ran very well and ran fast but there wasn't too much in there. This is much different field, but he's doing well. He likes the one-turn mile to a mile and a sixteenth. One turn is best suited for him."
A $300,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders Sales Company's Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale in March 2017, Candygram is out of the stakes winning Forest Camp broodmare Church Camp.
Holy Helena likely to stay in Canada
Following a victory in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly over the turf at Woodbine, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Holy Helena will likely continue to pursue graded stakes success in Canada, with the long term goal for the Ontario-bred daughter of Ghostzapper set as the Grade 1, $600,000 E.P. Taylor on October 12.
A Stronach Stables homebred, Holy Helena won the Woodbine Oaks and Queen's Plate during her 3-year-old campaign and won her first graded stakes race in Canada in the Dance Smarty. The mile-and-a-quarter event on the grass was a fourth graded stakes win for Holy Helena.
"There's a chance that she'll stay up there and finish out her career up there," Jerkens said. "This is definitely her last year of running and the most appealing Grade 1 is up there. She doesn't have a whole lot of Grade 1 on her record she has everything else. There's the E.P. Taylor and a prep race a month before [Grade 2, $250,000 Canadian on September 14] and there isn't much at Saratoga for her."
Prior to the Dance Smarty, Holy Helena scored back-to-back editions of the Grade 3 The Very One at Gulfstream Park and also won last year's Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay over the inner turf at Belmont Park.
Holy Helena is out of the Holy Bull broodmare Holy Grace, who also produced graded stakes winner Holy Boss.
Jerkens went on to speak of the winning career debut of Stronach Stables' 2-year-old Green Light Go on Thursday afternoon.
The homebred son of Hard Spun broke sharply under jockey Junior Alvarado and glided home to a wire-to-wire victory to win by 3 ¼ lengths, registering an 84 Beyer.
"He was breezing well. I didn't expect him to come out of the gate that sharp so that was good to see," Jerkens said. "Then I knew once that happened we had a good shot. Speed has been good all meet so once he broke that sharp I felt pretty good."
Jerkens said that Green Light Go would probably be bound for stakes action at Saratoga for his next start.
"I haven't thought quite that far ahead. We'll get him up there and take it from there," Jerkens said.
Stars & Stripes Racing Festival features all graded-stakes Late Pick 5
The Stars & Stripes Racing Festival at Belmont Park features an enticing opportunity for horseplayers with an all-graded stakes Late Pick 5 encompassing Races 6 through 10 on Saturday's 11-race card.
The sequence kicks off with the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer, which sees the return of graded stakes winner Code of Honor for Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey. Code of Honor is set to make his first start since placing second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. Also entered is Zayat Stable's Majid, who is on a four-race win streak including a last-out score in the Easy Goer for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
In Race 7, the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational will see Concrete Rose renew her rivalry with Grade 1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies turf winner Newspaperofrecord. Also entered is OXO Equine LLC's Cambier Parc, who makes her first start since winning the Grade 3 Wonder Again on June 6 and French-bred Olendon, for trainer Pascal Bary, who makes her North American debut after finishing second in the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary at Longchamp in May.
Race 8 is the Grade 2, $300,000 John A. Nerud for 3-year-olds, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" automatic qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Sprint in November at Santa Anita. The nine-horse field features a number of notable contenders including graded stakes winners Promises Fulfilled for owner Robert J. Baron and conditioner Dale Romans and Three Diamonds Farm's Do Share for trainer Mike Maker.
The Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby, carded as Race 9, features a full field of 14 contenders including four runners for trainer Chad Brown led by Grade 2 American Turf winner Digital Age for Klaravich Stables, who is installed as the 9-2 morning-line favorite. Peter Brant's Demarchelier enters off a victory in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge at Belmont on June 1. Rounding out Brown's contingent is Rockemperor, preparing to make his North American debut following a sixth-place finish in the Group 1 French Derby on June 2, and Standard Deviation, who most recently won the Tale of the Cat on June 1 at Monmouth Park.
The final leg of the sequence is the Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban as Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational winner Marconi looks to win his fourth straight race. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Marconi will have to topple multiple Grade 1-winner Catholic Boy, who is in search of his second graded stakes win this year after capturing the Grade 2 Dixie on the turf at Pimlico Race Course for trainer Jonathan Thomas.
The minimum bet for the Late Pick 5, available on track, on all ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country, is 50 cents.