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Vinny from Real Dynasty Picks previews the 2023 Soaring Softly Stakes (G3) from Belmont Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. The 2022 Matron Stakes (G3) winner American Apple appears to be in tough vs pairs of runners from top trainers Chad Brown & Christophe Clement. Who comes out on top? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
KatieRich Stables’ Kentucky homebred American Apple will look to notch her second career graded triumph in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Soaring Softly, a seven-furlong Widener turf sprint for sophomore fillies, at Belmont Park.
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Trained by Daniel Leitch, American Apple enters from a game runner-up finish in the 5 1/2-furlong Mamzelle on May 3 at Churchill Downs. There, she rallied six-wide from seventh-of-9 to make up ground at every point of call under Gerardo Corrales and staved off the late bid of Anna’s Arabesque to her outside, holding onto place honors by a neck while finishing 2 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Danse Macabre.
“The winner had the best trip and we got caught six-wide,” said Leitch. “She came back from it really well.”
The daughter of American Pharoah provided her trainer with his first career graded stakes victory when taking the Grade 3 Matron in October at Belmont at the Big A, earning the win over Redifined with a prominent trip under Eric Cancel and garnered a co-field-high 87 Beyer Speed Figure.
That win led to a try in Grade 1 company in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in November at Keeneland where she finished sixth after holding a brief lead at the three-eighths call. She did not race again until finishing a closing fourth in the 5 1/2-furlong Limestone in April at Keeneland to earn an 85 Beyer in her seasonal bow, while racing with blinkers off for the first time.
“I think she’s getting better and the break after the Breeders’ Cup was the best thing for her,” Leitch said. “She came back better and stronger and I think the five and a half furlongs may be a bit short. Six and a half and seven furlongs are probably her best races.”
Leitch said maturity, along with the removal of blinkers, has benefitted American Apple this year.
“We took off the blinkers because we wanted to get her to relax and settle during the races and in her first two starts it’s really worked out so far,” Leitch said. “I think if we get a good trip, she’ll be tough. She’s been training lights out, so I’m very excited about her.”
American Apple is the last foal produced from the KatieRich Stables-campaigned graded stakes-placed mare Miss Mary Apples, who also produced the multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Lady Apple. American Apple’s other half-siblings include graded stakes-placed Dr. Diamonds Prize and stakes-winner Miss Red Delicious, who produced 2018 Soaring Softly-winner Nootka Sound. Miss Mary Apple is also the second dam of Grade 1-placed Parlor and Raon the Fighter, a multiple group winner in South Korea.
Leitch, who has a long history with both KatieRich Stables and American Apple’s family, said the talented filly has brought him on an unforgettable journey so far in her career.
“I have worked for KatieRich since I was 17 and had been around Miss Mary Apples and all of her babies,” said Leitch. “This is her last foal and they didn’t sell her. Just to have her in my hands and to be able to run her has been so special. I’ve known her since she was a foal and I’ve loved the family ever since I worked there. Going to the Breeders’ Cup is something I’ll never forget and I’m so grateful she took me there.”
Cancel will ride again from post 3 with American Apple assigned a field-high 123 pounds, five pounds more than each of her five rivals.
Trainer Christophe Clement will saddle two in pursuit of his second win in this event as Love Appeals [post 2, Joel Rosario] and Queen Picasso [post 4, Jose Ortiz] vie for their first career stakes win.
Moyglare Stud Farm’s Kentucky homebred Love Appeals matched American Apple’s co-field-best 87 Beyer for a last-out victory in a first-level optional claimer sprinting six furlongs on April 27 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The chestnut daughter of Speightstown stalked just off the pace under Manny Franco before unleashing a two-wide bid in the turn to take charge at the top of the stretch and draw off to cross the wire 4 3/4-lengths in front.
Her other win was a debut maiden score going 7 1/2 furlongs in February at Gulfstream Park before a close fourth-place finish in the Sanibel Island over the same distance and course in April.
Siena Farm, Michael Kisber, Peter Deutsch and The Elkstone Group’s Queen Picasso makes her first start against winners after a debut score going 1 1/16 miles over the Gulfstream turf in March. The Kingman filly scored a similar victory to Love Appeals’ optional claiming win when pouncing from two lengths off the pace to graduate by a half-length.
She has worked twice over the Belmont turf since, most recently posting the bullet work for a half-mile in 49.62 seconds on May 14.
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Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown also saddles two in maiden winners Lady Beth [post 1, Flavien Prat] and Senior Prank [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.].
Richard Schermerhorn’s Lady Beth has not raced since breaking her maiden at first asking in a February 5 maiden special weight going one mile and 70 yard on the Gulfstream synthetic. She earned the easy five-length victory with an off-the-pace trip under the guidance of Jose Ortiz to complete the course in 1:39.36. The Hard Spun bay was a $390,000 purchase at last year’s OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
Spendthrift Farm’s homebred Senior Prank is winless in two starts since an impressive debut win by a half-length in January over the Big A main track. She immediately stepped up to stakes company next in the seven-furlong Ruthless, but finished a non-threatening fifth after hitting the gate at the start and tracking behind the pace. She made her turf debut in her latest outing when an improving fourth in the April 27 optional claimer won by Love Appeals.
Completing the field is Marc Keller’s homebred maiden-winner Quarrel [post 5, Dylan Davis], who has not raced since graduating at third asking in November at the Big A for conditioner Bobby Ribaudo. The Speightstown chestnut relished her first outing over the grass and landed a neck victory over Tangential in a blanket finish. Her first two starts came in a pair of off-the-turf six-furlong sprints where she finished a respective second and fourth.
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