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Jul 1, 2022
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European contenders arrive for Caesars Turf Triple series

by NYRA Press Office



  • European contenders arrive for Caesars Turf Triple series
  • Cairo Memories to ship from coast to coast for G1 Belmont Oaks
  • Royally-bred Saint Tapit a debut winner for Pletcher; Mo Donegal targets G1 Runhappy Travers
  • Multiple G1-winner Gufo among Clement turf trainees
  • Bank Sting likely to target $125K Johnstone Mile
  • Belmont Park Week 11 stakes probables

A total of eight European contenders arrived at Belmont Park on Friday to prepare for the 10-furlong beginning legs of the Caesars Turf Triple series, featuring the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational for sophomores and the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational for 3-year-old fillies.

The initial legs of the Turf Triple series are part of four graded events slated for the Stars and Stripes Racing Festival on Saturday, July 9, which also boasts the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban, a 10-furlong test for older horses; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies.

The European hopefuls traveled from Liege, Belgium, to New York and arrived at Belmont at 11:30 a.m. Those arriving for the Belmont Derby included Implementation [Pia Brandt], Machete [Fabrice Chappet], Nations Pride[Charlie Appleby] and Royal Patronage [Charles Johnston]. 

The Belmont Oaks arrivals were Agartha [Joseph O'Brien], Hot Queen [Pia Brandt], Know Thyself [Francis-Henri Graffard] and With the Moonlight [Charlie Appleby]. Creative Flair [Appleby] also shipped over with an eye to the $150,000 River Memories on July 10 as part of a long-term plan to try the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 16 at Saratoga Race Course.

Turf Triple invitees from Aidan O'Brien's yard are expected to ship to New York on Tuesday with Stone Age targeting the Belmont Derby and Concert Hall pointed to the Belmont Oaks.

Sophie Chretien, traveling assistant for Appleby, oversaw the training of Althiqa and Summer Romance here last year, running one-two in both the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game at Belmont and the Grade 1 Diana at the Spa. She said her contingent traveled well.

"It was a long trip but everyone is good," Chretien said. "They were very settled in the flight from Liege to New York and now they can't wait to get out."

Nations Pride, by Teofilo, exits an eighth in the 12-furlong Group 1 Epsom Derby on June 4, five weeks after a seven-length romp over subsequent Derby runner-up Hoo Ya Mal in the Newmarket Stakes. The homebred had a four-race win streak snapped at Epsom, with his three previous wins all coming on flat courses, including a 3 1/4-length score in the 10-furlong Jumeirah Derby at Meydan in Dubai. 

"I think he will suit this kind of racing," Chretien said. "He's an interesting horse. He won in Dubai on firm ground. Hopefully, we will have firm ground next Saturday. For both of them, I hope the ground is on the firm side."

With The Moonlight, who won the Pretty Polly in May at Newmarket, exits an off-the-board effort in the Group 1 Oaks at Epsom on June 3. The daughter of Frankel is a full-sister to Group 1 winner Dream Castle and was twice a winner over flat courses as a juvenile.

"She's a big mama. She's a big, scopey filly," Chretien said. "She won in Newmarket on a straight line. It will be interesting to see how she copes with an American track."

Creative Flair shipped to New York last year and finished third in the Saratoga Oaks and fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks. She kicked off her season with a strong victory in the Group 2 Balanchine at Meydan over nine furlongs.

"She's in great form," Chretien said. "She won the Balanchine in Dubai and she's become a stronger filly both mentally and physically. I hope she does well."

The European contingent that arrived this morning are expected to clear quarantine in time to train Sunday morning.

The Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational will again launch the male division of the Turf Triple series that encompasses the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational at 1 3/16-miles on August 6 and the Grade 3, $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational at 12 furlongs during the Belmont fall meet.

The Belmont Oaks Invitational commences the female division of the Turf Triple series, which will be followed by the Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks at 1 3/16-miles on August 7 and conclude with the Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks at 11 furlongs during the fall.

***

Cairo Memories to ship from coast to coast for G1 Belmont Oaks

David Bernsen and Schroeder Farm’s Cairo Memories has never raced outside of California in seven lifetime starts. That will change when she makes the journey to the Empire State for the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 9 at Belmont Park. 

Trained by Bob Hess, Jr., the Cairo Prince sophomore gray filly will enter off two Grade 3 triumphs over the Santa Anita turf in the April 9 Providencia and the May 29 Honeymoon, both at nine furlongs under Hall of Famer Mike Smith. 

Smith, who breezed Cairo Memories six furlongs in 1:12.60 on Thursday at Santa Anita, will have the mount in the Belmont Oaks. 

“We’re looking forward to bringing her out east and participating in the program,” said Hess, Jr. “Obviously, it will be a big jump up in class. But she should like the added distance and the surface.”

Cairo Memories won her first two lifetime starts, including a stakes triumph in Del Mar’s Surfer Girl, before finishing ninth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She tried dirt for the first time when a close second to Eda in the Grade 1 Starlet in December at Los Alamitos. 

“She needs a surface with not a lot of slippage, which is turf or firm, firm dirt. She’s a turf horse for sure,” Hess, Jr. said. “She’s elegant, graceful, intelligent and she loves her job. She’s getting better. She’ll have to get a lot better to win this race, but she’s up for the task.”

Boasting a consistent record of 7-4-1-0, Cairo Memories has banked $352,500 in earnings. She was bought for $50,000 by agent Davant Latham from the Airdrie Stud consignment at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is a full-sister to Cariba, who won the 2020 Caress at Saratoga for Christophe Clement. 

***

Royally-bred Saint Tapit a debut winner for Pletcher; Mo Donegal targets G1 Runhappy Travers

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has no shortage of sophomore talent in his barn this year, including recent debut maiden winner Saint Tapit, a son of multiple graded stakes winner and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. The chestnut son of Tapit was an eye-catching four-length winner of Sunday’s fourth race, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, at Belmont Park. 

A homebred for Whisper Hill Farm, who purchased Havre de Grace for $10 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Sale, Saint Tapit was sent to post as the 9-5 favorite in the field of seven and broke well from the inside post under Luis Saez, who quickly hustled his mount into contention up the rail to stalk the pace in second. The trip was not without incident and Saint Tapit was forced to steady and lost some position on the backstretch as pacesetter Upper Level angled in front of him and tucked in towards the rail. 

Saint Tapit showed determination as he found his best stride again and went two-wide to the outside of Upper Level in the turn. Despite briefly racing on his wrong lead, he dug in gamely down the lane to take charge and widen his margins with every stride and complete the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.20. 

Pletcher said a good break was key for Saint Tapit, who entered the race from a half-mile breeze from the gate in 48.81 seconds over the Belmont main track on June 19. 

“It was good,” Pletcher said. “We were a little concerned because he hadn’t been real quick from the gate, and when he drew the one-hole I was a little concerned about that. But he actually broke very well and it was a good debut. We’ll probably bring him along a little more and [look for] an allowance option. Hopefully, there will be some stakes down the road.” 

KHK Racing’s Shahama was a good second to Gerrymander in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 25 after a bobble at the start and an unusual pace scenario down the backstretch. Gerrymander got the jump on the compact field of four but was quickly taken back by Joel Rosario with all four closely bunched up before Juju’s Map came away with the clear lead down the backstretch. 

Shahama moved into second under Flavien Prat at the half-mile call but could not reel in a game Gerrymander, who had plenty left in the stretch. Shahama was defeated three lengths in her second American start and first since a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6. 

Pletcher said he’ll keep the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 at Saratoga Race Course in mind when considering Shahama’s next start. 

“She looks good. It was kind of a strangely run race. You don’t often see a horse kind of take back mid-race and then re-rally like that,” Pletcher said. “But I thought she ran hard. We’ll keep our eye on the Coaching Club.”

The highlight of the Belmont spring/summer meet for Pletcher was undoubtedly a fourth triumph in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11 with Donegal Racing and Repole Stable’s Mo Donegal. The Uncle Mo bay, who was a resounding three-length winner of the “Test of the Champion,” has not returned to the work tab since his victory and has been “doing routine stuff” in the mornings. 

Pletcher said it is possible Mo Donegal could train up to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga. 

“I have to talk to [owners] Jerry [Crawford] and Mike [Repole],” Pletcher said. “We’re kind of thinking that we’re going to wait for the Travers, and if that’s the case, we’ll wait a little longer until we work him again.” 

Repole Stable also co-owns multiple graded stakes-winner Wit, who was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun where he failed to threaten and was beaten 14 lengths by Jack Christopher. The Practical Joke colt was a gutsy winner of the Grade 3 Bay Shore sprinting seven furlongs on April 9 at Aqueduct. Wit’s lone start beyond seven furlongs was a third-place finish in the one-mile Grade 1 Champagne to close out his juvenile campaign in October. 

Pletcher said Wit may stretch out again in his next start. 

“I don’t know what we are doing with him yet. We’re giving some consideration to maybe stretching him out,” said Pletcher. “I’m not sure where yet. We’ll give him a try going a little longer.” 

Wit returned to work on June 25 with a half-mile breeze in 49.74 over the Belmont dirt training track. 

***

Multiple G1-winner Gufo among Clement turf trainees

Otter Bend Stables' multiple Grade 1-winner Gufo was among six horses to breeze a half-mile over the Belmont inner turf Friday for conditioner Christophe Clement.

Gufo [50.02], who is targeting the Grade 1 United Nations on July 23 at Monmouth Park, worked in company with John McCormack's 4-year-old maiden winning filly Eylara [50.66], who is possible for the 12-furlong $150,000 River Memories on July 10.

"He was good," Clement said of Gufo, who finished third last out in the Grade 1 Manhattan on June 11. "It was his first work back and he trained very well. He's aiming for the United Nations at the moment."

Cedar Hill homebred Myriskyaffair went in 52 flat in company with Classic Colors, a 4-year-old New York-bred allowance winning filly.

Myriskyaffair, by Verrazano, is tentatively pointed to the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational, the first leg of the Caesars Turf Triple series for sophomore fillies on July 9. She graduated by 14 lengths in an off-the-turf maiden event over older company on May 19 and followed with a runner-up effort to Consumer Spending in the Grade 2 Wonder Again at nine furlongs over yielding ground on June 9.

"She breezed well," Clement said. "I might try to find an easier race than the Oaks. She finished second last time in the Wonder Again and it was a very tough race. She's now graded stakes placed. The Oaks looks very tough. I need to see how she comes out of the work."

Also on the tab for Clement were Lady Edith [48 flat], who finished fourth last out in the Grade 3 Intercontinental, and Diamond Hands [50 flat], who ran second in the Hilltop at Pimlico two starts back. 

Clement won two races on Thursday's Belmont card to bring his win total to 29, good for second at the spring/summer meet behind Chad Brown [41].

In addition to taking the nightcap with maiden claimer Miss Sugar Hill, Dylan Davis provided a rail-running trip for Topic Changer, who graduated in style in a state-bred maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and up traveling nine furlongs over the inner turf.

Clement said he appreciated the brave run engineered by Davis, who leads the colony with 43 wins at the current meet.

"How about that? I liked that very much," said Clement, with a laugh.

***

Bank Sting likely to target $125K Johnstone Mile

After resuming her winning ways in Sunday’s six-furlong Dancin Renee, multiple stakes-winning New York-bred mare Bank Sting will stretch back out in distance for the $125,000 Johnstone Mile to be contested out of the Wilson Chute on August 12 at Saratoga Race Course. 

Hidden Brook Farm, Joseph G. McMahon and Anne McMahon’s Bank Sting, trained by John Terranova, was in stalking range down the backstretch of the Dancin Renee before inching her way up to even terms with pacesetting stakes winner The Important One around the far turn. Under little coaxing from Joel Rosario in the stretch drive, Bank Sting strolled home a 5 1/2 length winner, while producing a 91 Beyer Speed Figure. 

Bank Sting, who scored in Aqueduct’s La Verdad and open company Heavenly Prize Invitational earlier this year, will look for her fourth stakes win in the Johnstone Mile. The Dancin Renee was Bank Sting’s shortest distance traveled in a dozen lifetime starts. 

“When you have a horse with that type of class in the right spot, a little bit of distance change doesn’t really matter,” Terranova said. “She’s always had good speed and the class factor really takes over.”

In capturing the Dancin Renee, Bank Sting brought her lifetime earnings to $582,050 and became Terranova’s fifth-richest trainee in his three decades of training thoroughbreds, trailing fellow New York-bred stakes-winner Funny Guy as well as graded stakes winners Franny Freud, El Kabier and New York-bred millionaire Gander. 

“She’s such a good girl,” Terranova said. “We’re so grateful to have her and that she’s been a healthy mare. Great owners behind her. It’s just been a fun time with her. She’s been a difficult mare, but she knows how to win and loves the game.”

Belmont Park Week 11 stakes probables

Saturday, July 9

Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride

Probable: Half Is Enough (Michael Trombetta), Happy Soul (Wesley Ward), Hot Peppers (Rudy Rodriguez), Pretty Birdie (Norm Casse), Stand Up Comic (Butch Reid, Jr.), Sterling Silver (Tom Albertrani)

Possible: Union Lake (John Terranova)


Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban

Probable: Dynamic One (Todd Pletcher), First Captain (Shug McGaughey), Max Player (Steve Asmussen), Untreated (Todd Pletcher), Warrant (Brad Cox)


Sunday, July 10

$150,000 River Memories

Probable: Luck Money (Arnaud Delacour), Virginia Joy (Chad Brown), War Like Goddess (Bill Mott)

Possible: Creative Cairo (Christophe Clement), Except Temptation (Tom Albertrani)


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Trainer Ken McPeek has garnered plenty of knowledge and experience since starting his first runner in 1985. He’s known for his fearlessness when taking a gamble with his horses, like when he sent out Sarava to a shocking 70-1 victory in the 2002 Belmont Stakes for the dark bay’s first try against graded company, and more recently, scored a Grade 1 Preakness victory with upset filly Swiss Skydiver in 2020.