Notes
Jun 12, 2022
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Mo Donegal provides Pletcher a sentimental Belmont Stakes win; targets G1 Runhappy Travers

by NYRA Press Office




  • Mo Donegal provides Pletcher a sentimental Belmont Stakes win; targets G1 Runhappy Travers
  • Flightline posts 112 BSF in G1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap
  • Brown’s BSRF starters point to summer Grade 1 races
  • G1 Ogden Phipps-winner Clairiere aging like the fine wine she’s named for; Echo Zulu headed to Kentucky for precautionary tests
  • G1 Acorn victress Matareya on track for the G1 Longines Test at Saratoga
  • Rich Strike to target G1 Runhappy Travers
  • Casa Creed seeking race of best fit after successful G1 Jaipur title defense
  • Saffie Joseph, Jr. earns first Triple Crown placing with Skippylongstocking
  • Belmont Park week 8 stakes probables

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was reminded on Saturday why he trains racehorses when Mo Donegal provided the Hall of Famer with his fourth triumph in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

Mo Donegal rated in between horses down the backstretch under Irad Ortiz, Jr., 1 1/2 lengths off pacesetter We the People, and angled wide around the far turn, surging to the front past the quarter pole. Fending off an inside rally from stablemate and fellow Repole Stable color bearer Nest, Mo Donegal won by three lengths in a final time of 2:28.28 over the fast main track.

The win was a first Belmont Stakes coup for owners Donegal Racing and Repole Stable.

“Yesterday was why you do this,” Pletcher said. “To win a race like that for the ownership group with all the Donegal team, Repole family, it’s a dream race for Mike [Repole] and his family, being a native New Yorker. It was a dream race for him. He had told me that this was the race he had dreamed of winning the most. That’s the most gratifying part of my job is to win races like that and see the enjoyment and excitement people get from it.”

Pletcher added a fourth Belmont Stakes triumph to his resume with Mo Donegal, having previously saddled Rags to Riches [2007], Palace Malice [2013] and Tapwrit [2017]. The win put Pletcher on even terms with his former boss, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who also boasts four Belmont Stakes victories.

“That’s an honor, I consider him to be the best of all time so that’s pretty cool,” Pletcher said.

Mo Donegal arrived at the “Test of the Champion” off a troubled fifth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, where he broke slow and was forced wide in the final turn, still managing to make up ground in deep stretch.

Nest, the lone filly in the Belmont Stakes field with Jose Ortiz up, stumbled out of the gate but was still able to secure forward stalking position and made a valiant bid in the stretch finishing second.

Pletcher said the race could have been closer between his two runners if Nest had a cleaner break.

“I got the feeling Mo Donegal had a little something in the tank if he was challenged. If you watch the two trips, she had a tougher go of it,” Pletcher said. “She stumbled at the start and kind of had to force her way inside to get position and then Jose had horse at the five sixteenths pole, but he couldn’t go anywhere because Mo Donegal got the jump on him, so he had to wait until he cleared to get her out. She surged when he did. With a little different trip it would’ve been closer.

“He bounced out of it well. Both he and the filly,” Pletcher added.

Mo Donegal added $800,000 to his bankroll, which now stands at $1,511,800 with a 7-4-0-2 record. The Belmont Stakes elevated Mo Donegal’s status among his sophomore counterparts while adding to an accomplished resume, which includes victories in the Grade 2 Remsen in December and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino in April, both at Aqueduct.

“Like always, there’s no need to rank anybody yet because what happens in the summer and fall always seems to carry a little more weight in terms of divisional championships,” Pletcher said. “I think with his win in the Wood and the Belmont, the fact that he beat the Preakness winner [Early Voting] in the Wood, that puts him right at the top of the list.”

Mo Donegal could continue his upward trajectory in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course, a race which Pletcher has won with Flower Alley [2005] and Repole’s Stay Thirsty [2011].

Pletcher said Mo Donegal could follow the same path as his two prior Travers winners, who prepped for the "Mid-Summer Derby" with a victory in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 31 at Saratoga.

“I haven’t really talked to the ownership group about it too much, but both of our Travers winners went through the Jim Dandy. So to me, if he has a prep between now and the Travers, that would make the most sense,” Pletcher said.

Nest will likely have sights set on the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 20 at Saratoga and could race back in the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 at the Spa.

“I thought she ran great. We’ll target the Alabama and decide if we want to target the Coaching Club before that or not,” Pletcher said. “I think she solidified what we already felt going into the Kentucky Oaks. Everyone talked about it being one of the deeper Oaks in a while. I think that Nest showed that to be the case yesterday.”

In the Kentucky Oaks, Nest finished second behind Secret Oath who is trained by Lukas, whom Pletcher worked under before going out on his own in 1996.

Mo Donegal also gave his prolific sire Uncle Mo, also owned by Repole and trained by Pletcher, his second victory in a Triple Crown race. He produced 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in his first crop.

“It’s remarkable when you go to the sales, you don’t need your catalogue page in most cases. You can tell when you see an Uncle Mo,” Pletcher said. “A lot of people say that’s a sign of a great stallion when they really stamp their progeny.”

Pletcher’s prosperous Belmont Stakes day also included a triumph in the Grade 2 Brooklyn with Repole’s Fearless as well as game runner-up efforts with Happy Saver in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap and reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps.

While Fearless was stretching out considerably in distance for the 12-furlong Brooklyn, Happy Saver saw a cutback to one turn, arriving at the Met Mile off a second-place finish in the two-turn Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs.

Pletcher expressed strong satisfaction with both horses, Happy Saver in particular, who faced extremely swift opponents in West Coast invader Flightline as well as Grade 1-winner Speaker’s Corner.

“Happy Saver has been successful at a number of distances,” Pletcher said. “I don’t think he’s at his very best at a one-turn mile, but we were hoping for a scenario where the two favorites hooked up and came back to him a little bit. Flightline just ran too well but I was super happy with the way he ran. Fearless gave us the impression that he would stay a mile and a half, but until you do it you’re never positive.”

Pletcher said Fearless and/or Happy Saver could come back in the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban on July 9 at Belmont or the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 6 at Saratoga.

“I think it’s about finding the best opportunities for them. Either one could be a candidate to come back in the Suburban, either one of them could be a candidate to wait for the Whitney,” Pletcher said. “There’s a couple different ways to go, it’ll be interesting to see what Flightline does and where he goes.”

Pletcher added that Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat could sport blinkers for her next start. He said he would like to try 1 1/4 miles with the talented Curlin filly, who could race in the Grade 2, $500,000 Delaware Handicap on July 9 at Delaware Park with the Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign on August 27 at Saratoga as the long term goal.

“I think you have to factor it in, plus I know she’d like a mile and a quarter. It can be awfully hot at Delaware that time of year so factors like that we’ll take a look at,” Pletcher said. “She’s all class. She shows up and runs well. We’ll probably go to Saratoga, a couple races there so well see.

“We’ve had blinkers in mind with her for a while. It’s kind of hard to make an equipment change with a filly that runs great every time she runs and wins most of the time,” Pletcher added. “She’s very curious and she tends to look around a little bit. Johnny felt like she saw something late in the race that had her tap on the brakes a little bit and might have cost her the win.”

***

Flightline posts 112 BSF in G1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap

Hronis Racing, Siena Farm, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing’s undefeated multiple Grade 1-winner Flightline was a decisive victor of the hotly-anticipated bout with Grade 1-winner Speaker’s Corner in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap.

Trained by John Sadler and piloted by Flavien Prat, Flightline broke inward and a step slow from the inside post, conceding position to the quick-starting Speaker’s Corner, who exited post 2 under Junior Alvarado.

Flightline was taken in hand by Prat as Speaker’s Corner crossed over to the rail and assumed command through an opening quarter-mile in 22.78 seconds and the half-mile in 45.01 over the fast main track. But a patient Prat quickly regrouped and advanced up the rail, steadying again slightly before angling three-wide through the turn and into the clear. Once set down for the drive, Flightline blew past Speaker’s Corner and strode home a six-length winner in 1:33.59, while geared down the final 70 yards.

In victory, Flightline toppled the 2020 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup-winner Happy Saver, the aforementioned Speaker’s Corner and last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint-winner Aloha West.

Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds was on hand at Belmont with a large supporting group to cheer home their undefeated star, who garnered a 112 Beyer Speed Figure.

He said Flightline’s victory was all the more impressive in that he had to overcome adversity after three gate-to-wire open-lengths sprint scores, culminating in a facile win in the Grade 1 Malibu in December at Santa Anita.

“That was the first time we'd turned for home with something to do. Every other horse in his first three races, they'd been going backwards,” Finley said. “I saw Happy Saver wasn't going backwards and I thought he'd get after it and he did. That wasn't quite as easy as the first three.

“These were very good horses - three Grade 1 winners,” he continued. “You don't run away and hide from that type of Grade 1 winners.”

Finley credited Sadler and his assistant trainer Juan Leyva for the development and maturity of Flightline.

“If you look at his breezes before the Malibu and then his last four or five breezes, he's a different horse in terms of the first part of his works,” Finley said. “The assistant trainer Juan Leyva, who was a jockey and won a Breeders' Cup race, all credit to him for working with this horse every day. A big part of their day has been this horse for a long time, and I think it paid off. I saw their hard work all come together and be exhibited yesterday.”

Finley said another contributing factor was re-acquainting Prat with the new-and-improved Flightline in advance of his first start beyond seven furlongs.

“We flew Flavien out on a Sunday night three weeks ago to breeze this horse [at Santa Anita] because he really hadn't been on him since the Malibu,” Finley said. “I think that really helped because he had seen how much more relaxed he'd been since then.”

Finley admitted that there were a few anxious moments early in the race when Flightline did not break cleanly from his inside post.

“That's what you're exposed to on the rail,” Finley said. “That was not the best case and I knew that Junior Alvarado had his eye on us and he did a good job. He dropped over very quickly and I think he tried to set a trap for Flavien. And he did, but the trap dissipated.”

Finley said once the field separated enough for Flightline to get into the clear, he began to relax and enjoy the race.

“I'd have been more worried if Happy Saver lapped up on us and then we would have been caught in that pocket,” Finley said. “But when it thinned out and he was able to move out two paths, I knew that if we're good enough we were going to get by this horse. And then he went up in a way that you kind of knew he was going to keep going.”

And when Flightline was presented late in the turn and track announcer John Imbriale alluded to a battle of East versus West, the crowd cheered in anticipation ever so briefly.

“For about six strides,” said Finley, with a laugh. “We enjoyed that last eighth of a mile and he was free and clear. I saw Flavien just before the eighth pole peek over at the big board and when they do that, that's a good sign.”

While post-race discussions centered around a next start in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on September 3 at Del Mar, the New York-based Finley said he'd like to see Flightline under consideration for the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney. The nine-furlong test for older horses offers a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1 Breeders' Classic in November at Keeneland.

“I know exactly where I want to go, but John will make the call and he's done really well so far,” Finely said. “I think that's [the Pacific Classic] probably the leading candidate, but the Whitney certainly has to be in play, too. One or the other.”

Finley said Flightline cooled out well and scoped clean after the race and was in good order during his Sunday morning visit with the talented and proud colt.

“He has personality. He's the prom king and he's turned into the Heisman Trophy winner,” said Finley. “He's a handsome kid and got a lot of charisma. There's a lot to like about this horse.”

And Finley said Flightline’s continued success – for an ownership group that includes both the West Point and Woodford Racing partnerships - can only benefit the sport.

“He's owned by people who have worked hard and developed a love for our sport and have come together,” Finley said. “I think that’s a great signal to send to people who are looking at our industry.”

***

Brown’s BSRF starters point to summer G1 races

Trainer Chad Brown has exited a fruitful Belmont Stakes Racing Festival well-armed to launch his annual summer assault on graded stakes throughout the country.

Many in his arsenal landed a blow this weekend, but arguably none more impressive than Jack Christopher, who smashed the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun by 10 lengths under a Jose Ortiz hand ride.

All in all, Brown confirmed that, “everyone looks OK” on Sunday morning.

Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud and Peter Brant’s Jack Christopher remained undefeated from four starts and will now likely stretch out in trip and seek his third Grade 1 victory in the $1 million Haskell on July 23 at Monmouth Park.

“We’re probably headed to the Haskell and I couldn’t be more pleased,” Brown said. “I think he’ll be able to [handle nine furlongs]. He switches off nicely and is a very kind horse.”

It is rare that Brown starts a longshot, much less pulls the pari-mutuel wool over the betting public’s eyes and wins with them, but that is roughly what occurred in the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan when Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso’s Tribhuvan did one placing better than last year's Manhattan when taking the 10-furlong affair in gate-to-wire fashion at 19-1 odds.

One of four in the race for the barn, he was followed home by the shortest price of the quartet in Madaket Stables, Dubb and Louis Lazzinnaro’s 4-1 second-choice Adhamo, with Flavien Prat up, who placed in his second consecutive Grade 1 after a third in the Old Forester Turf Classic on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

“I think a little more pace in the race will help Adhamo,” Brown said. “Obviously, we had the frontrunner, but he carved out modest fractions and was able to wire them. Adhamo seemed to be jammed up at moments when he was trying to run and I think his losses are a matter of circumstances. I think Flavien played the hand he was dealt and did the best he could do with it. He had some trouble and steadied into the first turn and at different times he was constantly tapping the breaks on the horse. It was not the trip he was looking for and he did the best he could to get second, which I’m very appreciative for. I think with more pace and a clear run, I think you’ll see the best of him.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do with him,” Brown added. “The distances will be a little tricky. He would have been a perfect horse for the Arlington Million in ‘the old days’ at Arlington Park, we’ll call it now.”

Brown said Tribhuvan is likely to target a title defense in the Grade 1 United Nations on the Haskell undercard.

“As far as Tribhuvan, we’ll probably head to the United Nations again with him,” Brown continued. “I think it’s fair to say that [10 to 11 furlongs] is his trip.”

Brant’s impressive Bleecker Street remained undefeated with a closing victory in Friday’s 10-furlong Grade 1, $750,000 New York, while divisional leader Regal Glory stretched her win streak to four and won her third Grade 1 of the past six months in the $500,000 Longines Just a Game over one mile.

Brown said Bleecker Street will target the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 16 at Saratoga, while Regal Glory will point to the Spa’s Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

One of the most admirable unsuccessful efforts of the day for Brown was that of Klaravich Stables’ 2021 Grade 1 Acorn winner Search Results, who finished a game third under Irad Ortiz, Jr. after dueling for the lead with champion Letruska in the G1 Ogden Phipps.

“That was the only disappointment of the day,” Brown said. “There’s been some chatter about if we had a plan and we had the opposite plan. It just didn’t unfold well. I’m not going to beat up Irad over it. People make mistakes and he’s been riding so well—especially for us—and it just didn’t work out.

“Our plan was to get position in second, ahead of the three closers, and keep Letruska in our sights and not head her,” he continued. “What happened is she broke OK and he asked her to get up in gear and she went from first to fifth gear quick and he had his hands full. I think in hindsight we both feel she is fast enough to inherit second on her own and not kind of jam her into fifth gear. I don’t think she would have grabbed the bit like she did. She could have been a few lengths back and not with the horse next to her. I think it would have been a much different result. Our plan and my instructions were to turn it into a two-horse race and if you have a speed duel, you turn it into an all-horse race.

“It’s unfortunate because we saw her run as well as she did after going three-quarters in 1:09 and still being around at the finish—she had it in her to run her career top yesterday and it just wasn’t executed right. I am not sure where she goes next.”

Other disappointments for Brown included beaten favorites Speak of the Devil, fourth of five to Regal Glory in the Just a Game at even-money, and Rougir, fifth of seven in the New York at 3/5 odds.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do yet with Speak of the Devil,” Brown said. “Rougir is possible for the Diana, particularly if the ground comes up soft.”

G1 Ogden Phipps-winner Clairiere aging like the fine wine she’s named for; Echo Zulu headed to Kentucky for precautionary tests

Stonestreet Stables homebred Clairiere, whom owner Barbara Banke named for a fine varietal produced by one of the vineyards in her Kendall Jackson portfolio of wineries, is getting better as she’s getting older and will be pointed to the nine-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on the August 27 Travers Day card.

The 4-year-old Clairiere was victorious in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps by a head over reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat after a dramatic stretch battle that put on full display the heart, soul, and courage of both. With the win, Clairiere earned her spot in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff through the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series.

Asmussen said that the daughter of Hall of Famer and 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin, whom he trained and was campaigned by Banke and her late husband Jess Jackson, is a filly very much on the rise.

“I think she’s even better this year,” the Hall of Fame trainer said of the 2021 Grade 1 Cotillion winner. “She was a wonderful filly last year but as a 4-year-old she’s even faster now than she was then.”

Clairiere is the first foal produced by multiple Grade 1 winner and $2 million earner Cavorting. Like mother, like daughter. As a 4-year-old, Stonestreet’s Cavorting won the 2016 Ogden Phipps, and she also won the Personal Ensign that season after winning the Grade 1 Test at age 3.

In addition to triumphing over champion Malathaat on Saturday, Clairiere defeated the reigning Champion Older Filly and Mare Letruska, 2021 Grade 1 Acorn winner Search Results and the multiple graded stakes winning Bonny South.

“To beat the competition that she beat yesterday puts her as one of the best mares in the country,” said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who reported that Clairiere came back from her race in top shape and was doing well on Sunday morning.

With her win Clairiere has bankrolled $1,799,592 and has a record of 5-4-2 from 13 outings.

Echo Zulu, who won 2021 honors as the Champion 2-Year-Old Filly, was reported to be in good shape Sunday morning after having been scratched at the gate by the track veterinarian due to lameness in her left foreleg prior to the start of Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Acorn Stakes.

“She is giving us all the signs that we want to see,” said Blasi, who added that she will be shipped to Kentucky for a full evaluation by Dr. Larry Bramlage and his team.

Immediately following the scratch, Echo Zulu, who is owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and L and N Racing, was examined at the barn and Asmussen reported later in the day that all her x-rays were “clean.”

“She was fine again this morning, but we will do all of the complete diagnostics on her and go from there,” said David Fiske, the general manager of Ron Winchell’s operation. “We’ll take every precaution, as we do with all of our horses.”

The Asmussen-trained Morello, who finished last-of-6 in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, threw a shoe after breaking slowly from the gate and stumbling, Blasi reported. Morello, Chasing Time, who finished fifth in the Woody Stephens, and Max Player, sixth in the Grade 2 Brooklyn, were all in good shape this morning.

***

G1 Acorn victress Matareya on track for the G1 Longines Test at Saratoga

Grade 1 Acorn Stakes winner Matareya, a Godolphin homebred trained by two-time Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox, remains undefeated in 2022 after her dominating 6 1/4 length score and continues on target for the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test for sophomore fillies at Saratoga on August 6, according to her connections.

The seven-furlong Test is a one-turn race like Belmont’s one-mile Acorn and that is ideal for Matareya.

“We thought a lot of her as a 2-year-old,” said Blake Cox, the assistant to his father. “She broke her maiden at Ellis Park [August 2021] and then went right into a Grade One at Keeneland [the Alcibiades at 1 1/16 miles in October, finishing fifth]. We thought maybe it’s the two turns and we trained her back in a two turn race and she hooked the Oaks winner [Secret Oath in a one-mile allowance at Oaklawn Park in December when she was second by 8 ¼ lengths]. We were scratching our heads all winter. She finally jumped up and proved how good she is around one turn. Her win is very gratifying. She sure is a nice filly.”

Cox said the daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, who won the Grade 3 Beaumont at Keeneland in April and the Grade 2 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs, both run at 7 furlongs, is also a pleasure to have in the barn.

“She’s a very cool filly to be around. She’s sweet. She’ll stand in the shedrow all day and watch training and not move a hair,” said Cox.

On Sunday morning, Matareya went out on the track for an easy jog.

“She looked fresh, which is what you like to see,” said Cox, who reported that Warrant [2nd, Grade 2 Brooklyn] and Bonny South [4th, Grade 1 Ogden Phipps] were also fine after their efforts.

The Cox contingent departed Belmont at 2 P.M. and headed back to the stable’s home base at Churchill Downs.

***

Rich Strike to target G1 Runhappy Travers

Red TR-Racing’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will now be pointed to the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course after finishing sixth-of-8 in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park.

The chestnut son of Keen Ice displayed rail-skimming tactics in his stunning 80-1 upset victory in the “Run for the Roses,” but tried something new when angling outside of foes from post 4 in the Belmont. Jockey Sonny Leon, who expertly piloted Rich Strike to his Derby win, struggled throughout the first mile of the 1 1/2-mile test to bring Rich Strike’s attention to the race rather than trying to make the rail. Rich Strike trailed the field in eighth before swinging wide in the turn and only managing to put away two rivals in the “Test of the Champion.”

Trainer Eric Reed said Rich Strike likely would have run better with an inside trip.

“He came back great. It was my fault. I had a feeling the race would shape up like it did, and I told Sonny that all we had to do was settle eight lengths back down the backstretch and we’d win,” said Reed. “We knew that they would be waiting on us to come on the inside and I said, ‘Good, because we’re not going on the inside; we’re not going to get stopped in an eight-horse field.’ But he won’t run on the outside of horses. He has no interest and all he did was turn his head and try to fight to the rail and not concentrating on anything but trying to get to the rail and doing what he does. I didn’t know that. It didn’t cost us the win, but I do think it cost us a placing.

“I should have had a bit of an indication, because when we breeze him, Gabriel [Lagunes] breezed him about four or five lengths off the rail because he doesn’t go as hard that way,” Reed continued. “When he’s on the rail he wants to go too fast. I thought with horses around him, he’d be waiting to go, but he lost interest.”

Rich Strike will now set his sights on a cutback to the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1 Travers, a distance that Reed said suits him perfectly.

“We were going there win, lose or draw. We’re going to give him a little rest and that’s a mile and a quarter and there’ll be plenty of speed,” said Reed. “The track will play to his liking and we’ll run another bang-up race. I have no doubt about that. We’ll give him three or four easy weeks and then start training him up to the Travers. He’ll train in Kentucky and train [at Saratoga] a little.”

While Rich Strike’s finish in the Belmont was not what his team was hoping for, Reed said he couldn’t be happier to continue to train a Kentucky Derby winner.

“We didn’t think we could win coming from last, but this was a chance to get another good finish and that’s why we targeted it. He’s still the Derby winner and he’ll win plenty of races,” said Reed. “It’s not his only race and I would feel a lot worse if he had tried really hard and got dead tired and couldn’t win. He drank a half a bucket of water and wasn’t tired. He wasn’t trying to win, he was trying to get to the rail.”

Reed expressed his gratitude to the fans and to Belmont Park for their accommodations during Rich Strike’s stay in New York.

“Oh God, I got hundreds and hundreds of messages. I’ll keep everybody informed when he goes back to the track,” Reed said. “He’s not going anywhere and he’ll get his say again. We had guys as we were walking back come out of the barns and say, ‘Congratulations, you’ve still got the good horse, you’ll get them next time.’ I was real surprised that dozens of people came out and were so nice to us. You’ve got to lose better than you win – that’s my motto. As long as the horse is healthy, I’m happy.”

“Everybody has treated me so good from the day I got here and Juan Dominguez [NYRA's Senior Director of Safety and Racing Operations] and Frank [Gabriel,Jr. NYRA's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations] stood here at 1 in the morning to watch him go to the stall; the press giving us our space and always being so kind,” Reed added. “Who wouldn’t like that?”

***

Casa Creed seeking race of best fit after successful G1 Jaipur title defense

LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s Casa Creed earned a 102 Beyer for successfully defending his title in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur at six furlongs over a firm Widener turf.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and piloted by Luis Saez, the 6-year-old Jimmy Creed bay settled in mid-pack as True Valour led the field through splits of 22.36 seconds and 44.94 under pressure from Arrest Me Red.

Casa Creed cut the corner into the stretch before Saez angled his horse outside the pacesetters at the eighth pole, and mowed down the leaders for a half-length score over Arrest Me Red in a final time of 1:07.44.

The victory came in stark contrast to last year’s deep-closing score under Junior Alvarado.

“I think when you put Luis on, you automatically get a little closer sometimes,” Mott said. “I think that's his style. Obviously, it worked out. He came from near last, last year.”

In victory, Casa Creed secured a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint going 5 1/2-furlongs in November at Keeneland.

Mott said the abbreviated distance at Keeneland may be too short for Casa Creed, but that a start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave on August 13 at Saratoga Race Course, which offers a "Win and You’re In" berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, could be in the cards.

“We should probably wait for the Jaipur next year,” Mott said, with a laugh. “Lee [Einsidler of LRE Racing] would be more interested in running a mile at Saratoga than he would be going five and a half.”

Mott said a trip north to Woodbine for the six-furlong Grade 2 Highlander on July 2 for older horses or the seven-furlong Grade 2 Connaught Cup on July 23 could also be in the cards.

"You'd like to find a six-or-seven furlong race, five and five-and-a-half seems a little sharp for him," Mott said.

Mott said he was disappointed after finishing third with Speaker’s Corner in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, which was won impressively by the undefeated Flightline.

“I think we're better than that,” Mott said. “Take nothing away from the winner. He was awesome. He took it to us. He attacked and we didn't resist. I think our horse is better than that, but I'm not making excuses. I just naturally had higher hopes."

Speaker’s Corner jumped out to a quick lead over Flightline, who was off a step slow, but ultimately could not turn back the California invader.

Mott also sent out Channel Maker, the 2020 Champion Turf Male, to a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan. The multiple Grade 1-winning multi-millionaire spotted the field several lengths after breaking slowly from the outermost post 10 and never factored.

“He's fine. I just don't think he had time to settle in the gate,” Mott said.

Channel Maker entered from a game 1 1/4-length score in his seasonal debut in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 23 at Keeneland.

***

Saffie Joseph, Jr. earns first Triple Crown placing with Skippylongstocking

Trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. celebrated as Skippylongstocking crossed the finish line a game third in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, earning his first American classic placing with his first Belmont Stakes starter.

Joseph, Jr., who sent out White Abarrio to finish 16th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, also saw Skippylongstocking post a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Preakness ahead of his Belmont Stakes effort.

“It’s great. Those are the kinds of races that most people buy horses for,” Joseph, Jr. said. “To get there and compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year means a lot for my career and our whole team’s career.”

Owned by Daniel Alonso, Skippylongstocking tracked behind pacesetter We the People and was patiently handled by Manny Franco to nearly take command with a quarter-mile to the finish. The son of Exaggerator lost position at the stretch call but battled back gamely to finish third behind the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of winner Mo Donegal and runner-up filly Nest.

“Manny gave him a perfect trip and he gave a very good run yesterday,” Joseph, Jr. said. “At one point, we thought he might have had a chance of winning it, but there was no disappointment. It was all joy with how he ran.”

Skippylongstocking made his 11th career start in the Belmont, which includes a good third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino behind Mo Donegal in April.

“He’s a horse that’s had a tough campaign and he’s very sturdy,” Joseph, Jr. said. “He’s shown up and has been consistent. He keeps improving and getting better. There’s no disgrace in running third to Todd. We’re thankful for the effort and how Skippy performed.”

Joseph, Jr. said Skippylongstocking could make his next start in the $135,000 Curlin on July 29 at Saratoga Race Course or the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby on August 6 at Mountaineer Racetrack.

“We’ll give him a little freshening and the crazy thing is he’s never won a stakes, so the Curlin could be possible. The West Virginia Derby is a realistic target,” said Joseph, Jr. “I’d like to win one of these derbies with him. I would say that’s the main target, but how do we get there? Do we go straight there or something before? We’ll decide later.”

Out of the War Chant mare Twinkling, who also produced graded stakes-placed Joseph, Jr. trainee Moonlite Strike, Skippylongstocking was a $37,000 purchase by Alonso at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.

Belmont Park week 8 stakes probables

Saturday, June 18

G3 Poker

Probable: Masen (Chad Brown), Penalty (Bill Mott), Public Sector (Brown), Safe Conduct (Phil Serpe), Sanctuary City (James Ferraro)

Possible: Wolfie’s Dynaghost (Tom Albertrani)

Sunday, June 19

NYSSS Spectacular Bid

Probable: Barrel of Quests (David Donk), Buckortwo (Michelle Nevin), Dakota Gold (Danny Gargan), Marinara Sauced (Chad Brown), Silent Running (H. James Bond), Surprise Boss (Juan Vazquez)

NYSSS Cupecoy’s Joy

Probable: Bank On Anna (Phil Serpe), Busy Morning (Jorge Abreu), Galaxina (H. James Bond), Howdyoumakeyourmoney (Michael Trombetta), Morning Matcha (Robert Reid, Jr.), Royal Dancer (Michelle Nevin), Silken Dollar (Richard Schosberg)


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