by Brian Bohl
Godolphin's Romantic Pursuit will look to build on her first stakes appearance as part of a talented seven-horse field of sophomore fillies in Saturday's $200,000 Sands Point at 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont Park inner turf.
The 25th running of the Sands Point will feature three entries who participated in the New York Racing Association's inaugural Turf Triple series, including Romantic Pursuit, who finished fourth in the second leg of the Turf Tiara in the 1 3/8-mile Jockey Club Oaks Invitational on September 7 at Saratoga Race Course.
Romantic Pursuit set the pace in that eight-horse field before being outrun in the stretch, finishing two lengths behind the winner Edisa on turf labeled good. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee entered her stakes bow with two consecutive wins and had finished first or second in five straight races, including a three-quarter length win in her last Belmont appearance on July 5 at 1 ¼ miles.
McLaughlin said the Medaglia d'Oro filly likely prefers longer distances. But she has done well at the Sands Point length, including a runner-up effort on April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"She's doing great and training very well," McLaughlin said. "She ran well last time and we were proud of her. I would prefer if it was longer, but nine furlongs shouldn't be too much of an issue."
The Kentucky homebred, 2-3-1 in eight career starts, ran her first three races on the main track before being moved to grass, where she has gone 2-2-0 in five starts. Her last-out start in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational was her only race on softer turf.
"She maybe prefers it a little firmer, but she can handle the ground," McLaughlin said. "She'll be facing a quality field, but we think she should run well."
Dylan Davis will be in the irons from post 6.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle a pair of contenders in New and Improved and Olendon. Owned by Wonder Stables, Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Chris Mara and Robert Masiello, the French-bred Olendon competed in the Turf Tiara's opening two legs, running eighth in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational in her North American debut on July 6 at Belmont and fifth last out in the Saratoga Oaks.
A two-time winner in six starts in her native country, the daughter of Le Havre will look to finish on the board for the first time since crossing the Atlantic, drawing post 2 with Manny Franco aboard.
Her stablemate, Klaravich Stables' New and Improved, will make her first graded stakes appearance after commencing her career with a pair of starts at one mile at Saratoga. A debut winner at one mile on July 28, the Cairo Prince filly moved up to stakes company, running fourth in the Riskaverse over yielding turf on August 22.
Purchased for $320,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale, New and Improved will pick up the services of jockey Joel Rosario from post 5.
Woodslane Farm's Dyna Passer also ran in two legs of the Turf Tiara, making her stakes debut with a fifth-place finish in the Belmont Oaks before running third in the Jockey Club Oaks, for which she garnered a personal-best 84 Beyer Speed Figure.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, Dyna Passer will be cutting back to her shortest distance since placing third in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight on April 13 at Gulfstream Park. She broke her maiden at fifth asking in her next start on May 23 at Belmont and will now look to win her first stakes at the same venue, drawing post 1 with Jose Lezcano set to ride.
L N J Foxwoods' Ledecka enters the weekend with momentum with back-to-back victories, including a half-length score in the Malvern Rose on September 9 at Presque Isle Downs. Conditioner Arnold Delacour has seen the daughter of Tiznow win at the Sands Point distance, with a maiden-breaking effort on August 24 at Colonial Downs. The $120,000 purchase at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale will retain the services of jockey Daniel Centeno and will break from post 3.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Tango Uniform Racing's Feel Glorious enters off a strong showing in the Pebbles in which she rallied from last of seven to finish third, just 2 ¼ lengths behind winner Blowout on September 14 at Belmont.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Feel Glorious, who started her career as a turf sprinter in Europe before starting her North American career in March, will be stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time. Junior Alvarado will have the call from post 4.
Souper Escape, trained by Michael Trombetta, enters off a win in the La Lorgnette on September 1 at Woodbine. The Medaglia d'Oro filly has won two of her last three starts, including the Christiana on June 19 at Delaware Park. Julian Pimentel will ride from post 7.
The Sands Point, slated for Race 9 at 5:13 p.m. Eastern, is one of two stakes on Saturday's 10-race card, along with the $100,000 Floral Park for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. First post is 12:45 p.m.