Taiba to pass on G1 Metropolitan H.; National Treasure to breeze Monday for G1 Belmont Stakes
Jun 4, 2023
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Taiba to pass on G1 Metropolitan H.; National Treasure to breeze Monday for G1 Belmont Stakes

by NYRA Press Office

  • Taiba to pass on G1 Metropolitan H.; National Treasure to breeze Monday for G1 Belmont Stakes
  • In Italian works for G1 Just a Game; G2 Pennine Ridge-winner Kalik to G1 Belmont Derby
  • Ottoman Fleet, Warren Point work in tandem for G1 Manhattan
  • Flirting Bridge works for G1 New York
  • Anaconda training forwardly towards G3 Poker
  • Whatchatalkinabout to bypass Tremont for $200K Funny Cide

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Zedan Racing Stables’ multiple Grade 1-winner Taiba will skip Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, at Belmont Park.

Taiba worked seven-furlongs in 1:27.40 Friday at Santa Anita in what was to be his final prep for the one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at the Arcadia, California oval. He has not raced since an eighth-place effort in the Group 1 Saudi Cup on February 25 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

“His works have been good, but not like I'd like to see them. I just don't think he's ready for something like that yet,” said Baffert, who won the 2017 Metropolitan with Mor Spirit. "I'm going to wait and run him at Del Mar. He's doing well, but not well enough for the Met Mile. To run in the Met Mile, you have to bring your 'A' game and I don't think he's quite there yet."

The 4-year-old Gun Runner colt’s trio of Grade 1 scores came in the Santa Anita Derby last April, the Pennsylvania Derby in September at Parx and the Malibu in December at Santa Anita.

SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan’s Grade 1 Preakness-winner National Treasure is slated to breeze Monday in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

The Quality Road sophomore added blinkers and made all the running in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 20 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, outdueling Blazing Sevens for a narrow head score with Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Mage settling for third.

Baffert said he is hopeful that National Treasure will appreciate the added ground in the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion."

“You never know until they do it,” Baffert said. “He handled the Preakness distance and it wasn't a problem for him. We're all in the same boat. None of them probably want to go that far, but if they don't go too fast, they can do it.

“I just want him to show up like he did at Pimlico,” added Baffert. “He's never really run a bad race. All his races have been competitive. He's a pretty consistent horse. He's happy and he'll breeze tomorrow and hopefully everything goes well."

Baffert, who previously won the Belmont Stakes with Point Given [2001] and Triple Crown-winners American Pharoah [2015] and Justify [2018], will be in attendance Saturday for the final leg of the Triple Crown.

National Treasure graduated at first asking in September at Del Mar and hit the board in a trio of stakes in the Grade 1 American Pharoah [2nd] in October at Santa Anita, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile [3rd] in November at Keeneland and the Grade 3 Sham [3rd] in January at Santa Anita. He finished fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in April ahead of his Preakness coup.

Zedan Racing Stables’ graded-stakes placed Arabian Lion rolled to a frontrunning four-length score last out under Velazquez in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard.

While initially under consideration for the Belmont Stakes, Baffert decided to point the Justify chestnut to the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores.

“On the turnback, sometimes they run well. We'll send him back to two turns again after that,” Baffert said.

Arabian Lion, who boasts a ledger of 6-2-2-0 for purse earnings of $217,600, entered the Sir Barton from a pacesetting runner-up effort to First Mission in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Lexington on April 15 at Keeneland.

Baffert will also enter multiple graded-stakes placed Fort Bragg in the Woody Stephens. The Tapit colt, who was third in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity in December, finished second last out in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile a neck back of returning rival General Jim on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

“He's still improving and filling out,” Baffert said. “He's maturing and there’s a lot of room to improve.”

Baffert previously won the Woody Stephens with Bayern [2014] and American Anthem [2017].

The Belmont Stakes headlines the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that features a total of 16 stakes events from Thursday, June 8 through Saturday, June 10. For additional information on the 2023 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and details on hospitality offerings, ticket packages and pricing, visit BelmontStakes.com.


In Italian works for G1 Just a Game; G2 Pennine Ridge-winner Kalik to G1 Belmont Derby

Peter Brant’s top-class turf mare In Italian put the finishing touches on her preparations for Friday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Just a Game with a four-furlong breeze over the Belmont inner turf in 48.03, a bullet of nine moves over the distance on Sunday.

The Chad Brown-trained daughter of Dubawi exits a one-sided victory in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on April 15, her third top-level win. 

“She went a maintenance half,” Brown said. “She went a little quick, but she just does things so easily—that’s nothing for her.” 

Brown’s weekend was by all measurements an excellent one, thanks to standout Saturday performances from promising young stock.

Robert LaPenta, eFive Racing Thoroughbreds and Madaket Stables’ Canadian-bred Kalik was an impressive gate-to-wire victor of the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge, a nine-furlong turf test for sophomores in which he bested the late-closing Far Bridge by one length with race favorite Silver Knott in third.

The Pennine Ridge provided the top-three finishers an automatic invite to the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational on July 8.

Brown said the $200,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase has earned another step up with the 10-furlong turf test for sophomores under consideration along with the $1 million King's Plate, a 10-furlong Tapeta test which is restricted to Canadian-bred sophomores on August 20 at Woodbine.

“He’s doing super and we’ll point to the Belmont Derby,” Brown said. “We have an eye on the King’s Plate later in the year with him.” 

The buzz horse of the day was arguably Klaravich Stables’ eye-catching debutante sophomore Redistricting, who manhandled a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden by a widening 4 3/4-lengths under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Purchased by Mike Ryan at Tattersalls October Yearling Sale 2021 for $199,669, the son of Kingman will be pointed toward graded stakes company with the Grade 1, $600,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational a key target. The 1 3/16-mile turf test for sophomores is slated for August 5.

“We always had high hopes for this horse,” Brown said. “We had a couple problems at two and we had to send him home. He didn’t have any surgeries—it was just minor physical issues and behavioral issues and we made the tough decision, like I did with Domestic Spending [also by Kingman], to just geld the horse. When he stormed through the stretch I briefly thought maybe I shouldn’t have gelded him, but I don’t think he would have got there the same way if I didn’t.

“I’m thinking the Saratoga Derby for him,” Brown continued. “Domestic Spending won the Saratoga Derby [in 2020] right on the wire. He reminds me of him, so I was thinking we bridge him with an allowance beforehand and then to the Saratoga Derby, that way I’m not just throwing him into the deep end.”


Ottoman Fleet, Warren Point work in tandem for G1 Manhattan

Godolphin’s Ottoman Fleet and Warren Point worked as a pair on Sunday morning at Belmont Park, six days ahead of their collective date with the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan over 10 furlongs on the inner turf.  The Charlie Appleby trainees breezed five furlongs in 1:00.88. 

Warren Point, with jockey Richie Mullen up, worked to the inside of Ottoman Fleet [Noel Garbutt], maintaining a slight advantage until the stretch, with the pair completing the work in closer order. Warren Point was approximately a head to the good of his stablemate at the wire. 

A video of the work was sent by on-site head travelling lad Chris Connett to Appleby, whose passport renewal process will prevent him from attending the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Warren Point exits a close fifth as the 3/5 favorite in the 11-furlong Grade 1 Man o’ War on May 13, while Ottoman Fleet was a decisive winner at even-money of the nine-furlong Grade 2 Fort Marcy on May 6.

“The breeze was sort of set up and went as we hoped for, with Richie leading the way on Warren Point, Noel on Ottoman Fleet and they picked it up well into the straight,” Appleby said. “I am pleased with the work and it seems that—most importantly—they have both come forward from their runs. 

“Ottoman Fleet definitely has progressed and right now he’s just enjoying his life out there. The nice flat track suits him and it’s similar to Dubai, which he enjoyed," added Appleby. "It appears Warren Point has come forward, as well, for the run and I’m very happy with him. Richie gets on with him well and will ride him on Saturday.” 

Two of the five representatives of Godolphin’s Moulton Paddocks, they are joined at Belmont by Group 3-winning stayer Siskany, three-time Group/graded winner With The Moonlight and G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Silver Knott, who ran third in Saturday's Grade 2 Penning Ridge here.

Siskany and With The Moonlight head to Friday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup and Grade 1, $500,000 New York, respectively, while Silver Knott exited his third in the Pennine Ridge at 3/2 favoritism in good order. 

“I was pleased with Silver Knott’s run,” Appleby said. “He’s just got to learn to hit the gates better so he can put himself into a good position before he’s asked. Otherwise, when he’s too far back, he gets keen. I’m expecting him to improve and really hopeful he’ll learn a little bit more. He will stay there for the Belmont Derby and I believe the step up to 10 furlongs suits him better, especially on pedigree. I know he’s a Lope de Vega and they’re usually soft ground horses, but I’ve had great luck with them over quick ground, which should be to his advantage.” 

Appleby’s amplified influence on New York racing is likely to continue throughout the summer. Per the conditioner, Ottoman Fleet and Warren Point will likely go home to England after their runs, while With The Moonlight – pending a “top-three finish” is possible to stay for the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana, a nine-furlong turf route older fillies and mares on July 15 at Saratoga. 

A pair of Grade 1 winners are set to invade as well with Summer winner Mysterious Night being aimed toward the Grade 3, $250,000 Manila, a one-mile turf test for sophomores on July 7 at Belmont, while Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint champ Mischief Magic will have the Grade 3, $175,000 Quick Call presented by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation on July 16 on his docket. 

“We are hoping to get both Mysterious Night and Mischief Magic back winning over there,” Appleby said. “Mischief Magic will have a run most likely in the (Group 1) Commonwealth Cup (June 23) at Ascot before that.”

Eternal Hope, winner of Lingfield’s Listed Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes and a disappointing seventh in Friday’s Group 1 Epsom Oaks, will point toward the Grade 1, $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks on July 8.

“I am hoping she warrants an invite on her Lingfield Oaks Trial win and we’re hoping for a better run on a flat track over there, which should suit,” Appleby said.


Flirting Bridge works for G1 New York

Heider Family Stables' Grade 1-placed Flirting Bridge worked a solo half-mile in 48.33 seconds over the Belmont inner turf Sunday in preparation for Friday's Grade 1, $600,000 New York, a 10-furlong turf test for older fillies and mares here.

"She looked like she got over the track really well," said trainer Brendan Walsh. "It was nothing fancy. She's in good shape and she's ready to go. We just had to give her a little spin."

The 5-year-old Camelot mare closed out her 4-year-old campaign by crossing the wire third in the 10-furlong Grade 1 E. P. Taylor at Woodbine Racetrack where she landed a neck back of the victorious Rougir and was shaded for second by Queen's Plate-winner Moira. She was elevated to second after Moira was disqualified and placed eighth.

Flirting Bridge made her seasonal debut with a 1 1/4-length allowance score on April 12 traveling 1 1/16-miles over good Keeneland turf.

"She was very progressive last year and I feel she's progressed again this year," Walsh said. "I was very happy with her race in Keeneland and it seems like she's coming into this in great shape. Hopefully she'll run her race. If she does, I can't see her being too far away."

The well-bred bay, out of the Danehill Dancer mare Rachevie, is a half-sister to Helvic Dream, who won the 2021 Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh and Walsh said Flirting Bridge could be ready for a Grade 1 triumph of her own.

"This was always going to be a better year for her and I think she's finally starting to put it all together," Walsh said.

Flirting Bridge, purchased for $60,303 at the 2019 Goffs Sportsman's Yearling Sale, sports a ledger of 14-3-3-2 for purse earnings of $270,521.


Anaconda training forwardly towards G3 Poker

Three Diamonds Farm’s stakes-winner Anaconda breezed a half-mile in 49.67 seconds Saturday over the Belmont Park dirt training track in preparation for the Grade 3, $200,000 Poker, a one-mile turf test for older horses, on June 10 at Belmont Park.

“He worked super and we’re all systems go,” said trainer Joe Sharp. “We’re looking forward to the race. He keeps taking all the steps forward. He’s one of those horses that likes his job, so that makes our job easier.”

The dark bay son of Pioneerof the Nile was last seen landing his first career stakes triumph by a nose over Yes and Yes in the seven-furlong Elusive Quality on May 6 over the Belmont turf. He finished second in the Danger’s Hour going the Poker distance in April at Aqueduct Racetrack and posted that same result in November in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship.

Sharp said the 6-year-old Anaconda has thrived while under the care of his New York-based assistant Lorita Lindemann.

“I tell you, he really seems to do well in the smaller barn with Lorita,” said Sharp. “He thrives in that environment with personalized attention. It makes him feel important. He’s a little bit older and he likes the extra time spent with him. He’s gotten in a good rhythm and continues to do well.”

Anaconda will make his second outing in graded company. His lone start at that level was a ninth-place finish in the Grade 3 Thunder Road in February at Santa Anita Park where he was defeated 3 3/4 lengths after running evenly throughout.

Out of the winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Lawn Party, Anaconda is a half-brother to 2018 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies third-place finisher Stellar Agent.


Whatchatalkinabout to bypass Tremont for $200K Funny Cide

Trainer Wesley Ward has opted to skip the upcoming $150,000 Tremont at Belmont Park with debut maiden winning 2-year-old Whatchatalkinabout in favor of more time to train for the $200,000 Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course.

Ice Win Stable's Whatchatalkinabout, bred in New York by Newtown Anner Stud, defeated fellow state-bred juveniles on May 12 when travelling five furlongs over the Belmont main track.

Ward said he wants to allow the young horse time to develop before his next start.

“I told Dave Reid, the owner of Ice Wine Stable, that the race would be very tempting, but he’s a big colt, and easy going on himself,” Ward said. “The New York-bred race is at Saratoga and he’s got a house up in Saratoga and frequents the racing there all the time. So, I suggested to err on the side of caution, back up on him and target this race. Our decision to bypass the Tremont will give him some time to grow up and mature a bit.”

Ward commented that Whatchatalkinabout is a sound horse.

“He doesn’t have any shin [issues] or anything that would hold back a 2-year-old from running early as he already has. But we just don’t want to keep firing them out there where he will get shins,” Ward said. “He’s so sound and so good that we decided to back up a bit and move forward the closer we get to the Funny Cide.”

Whatchatalkinabout is out of the unraced Super Saver mare Super Savvy and was purchased by Ward for $82,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale.

On Thursday, Ward will be represented by Castleton Lyons’ homebred Chi Town Lady, who captured last year’s Grade 1 Longines Test at Saratoga, in a seven-furlong allowance optional claimer on the main track.

The 4-year-old daughter of Verrazano was third in her 2023 debut on April 14 at Keeneland, contesting allowance optional claiming company going 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track. The race saw runner-up Cheetara post a massive upset in the next out Skipat on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course.

“The speed maybe got away from her a little bit and she came charging at them,” Ward said of her last effort. “We’ve been looking for a nice allowance to get her back on track.”

Ward said the plan was to keep her in training for her 4-year-old season.

“We figured a lot of the better fillies would retire, which they have,” Ward said. “She’s a very, very sound filly. She’s never had an issue in her life. I don’t even remember a time where she was been sick. She’s just a great filly. She’s really developed and matured into that big frame she has. I’m looking for a good year for her and hopefully we can kick it off in here.” 

Chi Town Lady, who breaks from post 2 in rein to Joel Rosario, is out of the dual stakes-placed Harlan’s Holiday mare Toni’s Hollyday. 

In the Thursday opener, a five-furlong turf maiden for juvenile fillies, Ward will debut the promising Precisely for owners Three Chimneys Farm and Turf Stable Racing. The daughter of More Than Ready has impressed Ward in her training leading up to her debut.

“She’s shown some eye-opening works at Keeneland,” Ward said. “She came up from Nick DeMeric in Florida. She went from Ocala to here and now Belmont. From what she’s shown me in the morning and what the DeMerics told me prior to her coming to me, she’s always been very well meant. I’m happy to get her started.”

A Kentucky homebred, Precisely is out of the Data Link mare High Quest, whose fourth dam is prolific broodmare Maplejinsky.

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