Sunday, May 11, 2014

Belmont Park Notes: Sunday, May 11, 2014

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


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Belmont Park Notes


  • Tonalist, Clement both flying high following G2 Peter Pan win
  • G1 Belmont, G3 Dwyer possible for Bay of Plenty
  • Rose Quartz, owned by harness racing mogul Jeff Gural, set for Wednesday debut at Belmont
  • Kauai Katie heads group of probables next Saturday's G3 Vagrancy


ELMONT, N.Y. - Both trainer Christophe Clement and Tonalist were in fine fettle this morning following the 3-year-old colt's impressive victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan, Belmont Park's traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 7.


"Everything is fine; he's keeping the dream alive," said Clement. "It's great. Any stakes horse is exciting, but to have a horse to make the Belmont is even more exciting. Last time we were there [2003] with a horse named Dynever, who didn't like it sloppy, and all it did was rain all day."


Clement, who is best-known for his prowess with turf horses, notably multiple Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, has had his share of success on the main track as well. He is a three-time winner of the Grade 3 Withers for 3-year-olds - Blu Tusmani in 1995, Statesmanship in 1997 and Fast Decision in 2002 - and also saddled Funny Moon to win the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in 2009.


"It used to upset me, at the end of the day, you were pigeon-holed at something and my deal for years was as a turf filly and mare trainer," he said. "But, Bill Mott told me long ago 'It's better to be pigeon-holed at something than nothing.' I feel very comfortable to train from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 ½ miles, turf or dirt, that's me, that's the way it is."


Working backwards from the 1 ½-mile Belmont, Clement said Tonalist would like have two works, most likely on May 22 or 23 and again on May 30 or 31.


"And that will be it," he said.


Tonalist was the second victory of the day for Clement, who also won race 7, 1 1/16-mile turf allowance, with Brushwood Stable's Mr. Jenney. Making his 2014 debut, the 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt came six-wide from last to post a 1 ½-length win over Stableford. It was Mr. Jenney's second win in his seven starts, having broken his maiden in September at Belmont by three lengths over eventual Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap winner Lochte.


"People don't realize the percentage of stakes horses coming from these maiden races is amazing," said Clement. "He always trained like a nice horse, it just took him a while to get going."


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The Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 7 and the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 5 are both possibilities for Bay of Plenty, a 9 ¼-length allowance winner on Wednesday, said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said on Sunday.


The Medaglia d'Oro colt has thrived since coming to New York, taking a maiden race by 7 ¼ lengths on March 22 at Aqueduct Racetrack before his romp this past week.


"He ran two really good races in Florida; it was the trips that beat him," said McLaughlin, who trains the horse for Darley Racing. "On figures, they were really good races. [Then] third time out, two turns, the right spot ... all contributed to his maiden win. We were hoping he would do that in his second start [in Florida], but he got a little unlucky that day."


"I don't know where we go next for sure, but probably the [Grade 2] Dwyer, maybe even the [Grade 1] Belmont," he added. "The Easy Goer doesn't really do us much good because we're looking for a graded stakes. We like time between races; we'll probably wait until July and see what happens, but we're not sure. We're pretty happy that [Bay of Plenty] and [Tonalist] split up; [Tonalist] is a nice horse."


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Jeff Gural, who operates three harness racing facilities, will be represented in a thoroughbred race on Wednesday at Belmont Park when one of his yearling purchases debuts in the ninth race, a $60,000 maiden special weight for New York-bred fillies and mares at one mile on the turf.


Gural and his wife Paula own Rose Quartz, a 3-year-old daughter of Rock Hard Ten who is trained by Bobby Ribaudo. Owning a thoroughbred is a change of pace for Gural, who owns standbardbreds and operates the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, and Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs in upstate New York.


"I have no idea what to expect, so I am hoping for the best," said Gural. "I have had partnership interests [in thoroughbreds] in the past, but never bought any yearlings. I really hope to race up in Saratoga one day since that is such a great place."


Rose Quartz, who sold for $50,000, is one of two yearlings Ribaudo purchased on behalf of Gural at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga NY Bred Preferred Yearlings sale. She is by Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap winner Rock Hard Ten and out of Diane's Birthday, who won a turf sprint stakes at Calder Race Course before going on to produce Arcadia's Angle, a Group 3 winner in France.


Gural said he met Ribaudo through his friend Marc Keller, who is one of Ribaudo's longtime clients.


"When the slot money came I figured New York-breds would race for big money, and I worry about future of harness racing in New York, so I told Bob to buy a couple of New York-breds," said Gural. "He picked two out and I wrote a check."


Ribaudo said he was initially reluctant to buy yearlings for Gural.


"[Gural] and his wife are lovely people," said Ribaudo. "They come to Saratoga every year, and they always say, 'Buy something, buy something.' And I always shove them off. He has 150 [standardbreds], why does he need two thoroughbreds? But we bought them two, and the other one [a Bernstein filly] is not here yet. [Rose Quartz] wasn't very expensive. She has a little grass in her pedigree, by Rock Hard Ten and out of a With Approval mare. I had her at Fair Hill over the winter. She was totally different on synthetic than she was on the dirt, so, hopefully that transpires when she runs Wednesday [on the turf]."


Ribaudo hopes Rose Quartz can carry the barn's momentum into Wednesday's race, with the trainer on Saturday having won a 6 ½-furlong maiden race with first-time starter Equilateral and finished second in an allowance with Stableford, who was making his North American debut. Keller owns both Equilateral, a 3-year-old who came from off the pace to prevail by three-quarters of a length, and Stableford, a 4-year-old who had one win in five starts in England prior to finishing 1 ½ lengths behind Mr. Jenney on Saturday.


"[Equilateral] was positive going into the race, a very nice filly," said Ribaudo. "She has a pedigree for the turf, but she had trained well enough on the dirt that we didn't hesitate to put her in on the dirt. She's going to stretch out. We'll do something in a progression. Sometimes it's bad when you break your maiden in your first start because you don't get to fool around in maiden races, trying distances. Now you have to step up to the next level and you're still experimenting, but she's on her way to longer races, either dirt or turf."


"Yesterday, turning for home, [Stableford] didn't switch leads," the trainer added. "With the soft turf and first time going a mile and a sixteenth, I figure he was getting a little tired, which is why I think he didn't switch leads. He always switches in the morning. That was the only negative. The positives were he was very professional in the paddock and in the post parade."


*           *           *


Kauai Katie heads a list of probables for the Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy, to be run on Saturday, May 17, the day of the Preakness Stakes. The daughter of Malibu Moon was sensational as a juvenile in 2012, taking three of four starts, including two graded stakes and a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. At 3, she took the Grade 3 Old Hat and Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park, but her year ended abruptly after a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Prioress on July 27 at Belmont Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Stonestreet Stables, the 4-year-old filly has raced once in 2014, finishing second to La Verdad in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap. Also likely for the Vagrancy are Classic Point, Lil Red Cozette, and Merry Meadow, while Five Star Momma and Jane of All Trades are possible.



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