Plum Ali remains undefeated with Miss Grillo (G2) score
by Keith McCalmont
Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables' Plum Ali kept a perfect 3-for-3 record intact with a smart 2 1/4 length score under Jose Ortiz in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Miss Grillo, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for juvenile fillies at Belmont Park.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the First Samurai chestnut saved ground in fourth position as Caldee, piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, led the five-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 24.81 seconds with Director's Cut, under Dylan Davis, tracking outside in second.
Ortiz sent Plum Ali up the hedge to gain third position down the backstretch with Editor At Large, in rein to Manny Franco, gaining ground outside rivals from the back of the pack as Caldee marked the half-mile in 48.06 on the firm turf.
With Director's Cut fading, Plum Ali edged closer through the turn and angled off the rail for the stretch run, easily overtaking Caldee with Editor At Large looked to make her run outside the leaders. Kept to task under Ortiz, Plum Ali continued to find separation down the lane and powered to a decisive victory in a final time of 1:42.03.
Caldee stubbornly held second from Editor At Large by a nose. Rounding out the order of finish were Mashnee and Director's Cut. Lovestruck, Freedomofthepress, Batyah and main-track only entrant Fifth Risk were scratched.
Co-owner Michael Dubb was full of praise for Plum Ali following the impressive score.
"Christophe always said to me she was the nicest 2-year-old turf filly in the barn," said Dubb. " We knew this winter when was she on the farm that she was above average, but we didn't know how good she was.
"She seems, with every race, to be maturing," added Dubb. "She had more composure in the paddock today. She's just going forward the right way and we hope we can get one more race out of her this year."
Plum Ali, out of the Stroll mare Skipping, graduated on July 23 in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight under Joel Rosario on the Saratoga turf. She followed with a 2 ¾-length score in the one-mile Mint Juvenile Fillies with Tyler Gaffalione up on September 7 at Kentucky Downs.
"She's a very nice filly," said Clement. "She's won in different scenarios, different tracks and different jockeys. That's what good horses do. They face the challenge and they win. It's very exciting. It's nice when they keep facing these things and win. [At the top of the stretch] the [top]-three finishers were together, so nobody has any excuses."
Clement picked up his second stakes win of the Belmont fall meet following a victory by Gufo in Saturday's Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational.
The veteran conditioner said Plum Ali could possibly make her next start in the one-mile Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on November 6 at Keeneland.
"Just like anything else, I'll only go to the Breeders' Cup if she's training great and doing great. I'm very happy. She's done everything right," said Clement.
Ortiz won four races on Sunday's card and leads all riders at the fall meet with 17 wins. The 2017 Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey said he benefitted from the opportunity to breeze Plum Ali leading up to the Miss Grillo.
"She's very classy. I had the opportunity to work her twice and got to know her a little bit these past couple of weeks," said Ortiz. "The first week, she worked well. The second week, she worked amazing. She gave me a lot of confidence going into the race. She had a great trip and I followed the right horse and when I was ready to make my move, I did."
Bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm, Plum Ali, a $65,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, banked $82,500 in victory. She paid $4.30 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Belmont with a 10-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.