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Aaron previews the 2023 New York Stakes (G1) from Belmont Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. Multiple Grade 1 champion War Like Goddess makes her debut over the local turf, but will the deep field prove too tough for the Bill Mott trainee? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess, a force in America’s filly and mare turf division over the previous two seasons, will seek her third Grade 1 victory in Friday’s 80th running of the $600,000 New York, a 10-furlong inner turf test for older fillies and mares.
The New York is slated as Race 8 on Friday’s 11-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, War Like Goddess exits a 1 1/2-length successful seasonal bow in the Grade 3 Bewitch on April 28 at Keeneland, her third consecutive win in that fixture and a continuation of strong 2022 form that she capped with a win in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and a third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf – both against males. In the Bewitch, she raced more forwardly than usual.
“I think being more forward helps her in that she’s not stuck in behind a slow pace and buried,” Mott said. “Especially on firm ground.”
The eight-time graded stakes-winning daughter of English Channel must now prove herself at 10 furlongs and around two turns, as all of her triumphs came at 11 or 12 furlongs and around three bends. Additionally, the four-time NYRA stakes winner makes her Belmont debut. Joel Rosario rides from post 7.
Argentine mare Didia brings a seven-race win streak into the New York, including two 10-furlong Grade 1 affairs in her native country and three stateside stakes.
Last out, the granddaughter of New York-based Hall of Famer Lure was a convincing winner of the nine-furlong Grade 3 Modesty at Churchill Downs for trainer Ignacio Correas and owner Merriebelle Stable – the same connections as 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff champ Blue Prize.
Vincent Cheminaud, who piloted Flintshire to victory in the 2015 Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course, rides from post 3.
“It’s an important step up in class, but I think she is ready for it,” Correas said. “She is training very well.”
Chad Brown, who has won the New York four of the past seven years, including with Peter Brant’s Bleecker Street in 2022, enters a capable quartet: Klaravich Stables’ McKulick and Marketsegmentation; Peter Brant’s Virginia Joy; and Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Robert V. LaPenta and Michael J. Caruso’s Shantisara.
McKulick [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] enters off a pair of losses, including a fifth in Didia’s Modesty, and seeks to return to the form that saw her win the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational over the same course and distance last year. The daughter of Frankel also landed September’s Grade 3 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational over 11 furlongs.
“She didn’t care for Churchill’s turf course at all and had trained really well at Payson all winter on much different ground,” Brown said. “Draw a line through that run. Obviously, she has a nice win at Belmont in the Belmont Oaks, so we know she likes the course and trip here. I think she can handle up to 11 furlongs, but she’s at her best at 10 furlongs.”
Marketsegmentation [post 4, Jose Ortiz] enters off a win in the Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont on May 7 and has progressed with each start. The 95 Beyer Speed Figure the daughter of American Pharoah earned is eclipsed only by War Like Goddess  on last-run figures, while equaled by Didia.
“She was a late addition,” Brown said. “She has improved each run and I really don’t think the distance will be a problem for her. She looks like a pace factor, too.”
Multiple Grade 2-winner Virginia Joy [post 5, Manny Franco], fourth in this event last year, enters off a second in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, while Grade 1 winner Shantisara [post 2, Flavien Prat] has already raced three times this year, including a win in the Grade 2 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11 and a fourth last out in the Modesty under Flavien Prat.
“Both Virginia Joy and Shantisara are training well,” Brown said. “Shantisara hated Churchill Downs’ turf, according to Prat, while Virginia Joy had a challenging trip last out.”
Godolphin’s Moulton Paddocks will be represented by the well-traveled With The Moonlight [post 8, William Buick], who is no stranger to these shores, having won last summer’s Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational over 1 3/16 miles.
A dual Group 2 winner in Dubai to commence 2023, the Charlie Appleby trainee enters off a pair of losses, including a second in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and a sixth in the Group 2 Dahlia at Newmarket over soft going.
Appleby said a strong effort Friday would propel With The Moonlight to the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana, a nine-furlong turf route older fillies and mares on July 15 at Saratoga.
“At the end of the day, we went to Newmarket last out thinking the ground would be sensible, but it wound up soft,” Appleby said. “We also knew she had a big break from the Keeneland race to the New York, so we wanted to have a race for her in between and it was Guineas weekend. William always knew in the back of his mind that we were coming here and he wasn’t going to abuse her if she wasn’t going well. We gave her a little freshener after that and she’s done really well. She has the mentality to handle the travel and if she runs top-three, she’ll go on to the Diana.”
Seven-time Grade/Group 1-winning conditioner Brendan Walsh and owner Heider Family Stables enter Flirting Bridge [post 1, Tyler Gaffalione], who – like her conditioner – spent her formative years in Ireland before finding stateside success.
The daughter of Camelot won her American bow at Churchill in May 2022 in allowance company, but still seeks her first stakes victory, having come close in both the Grade 2 Canadian and Grade 1 E. P. Taylor at Woodbine last fall. She kicked off her season with a Keeneland allowance win on April 12.
“I thought she ran really well at Keeneland,” Walsh said. “I think she’s improved considerably from last year and if she has, it should put her right there.”
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