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Dr. Miranda previews the 2023 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1) from Belmont at the Big A, then gives her top picks & long shots from this former prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
After suffering back-to-back losses for the 1st time in her career, can the Bill Mott-trained War Like Goddess rebound as she attempts to defend her title against the boys? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
George Krikorian’s dual Grade 1-winner War Like Goddess vies to defeat males for a second consecutive victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, a 1 1/2-mile inner turf marathon for 3-year-olds and up, at Belmont at the Big A.
The Joe Hirsch is slated as Race 6 on Saturday’s loaded 11-race card, which also features the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodward in Race 7, the Grade 2, $250,000 Gallant Bloom in Race 5 and the Grade 2, $250,000 Vosburgh, a “Win and You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, in Race 3. First post is 12:05 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 6-year-old daughter of English Channel was slated to run in the Grade 2 Flower Bowl on September 2 at Saratoga Race Course in pursuit of a second win in that event, but was removed from consideration after she spiked a temperature.
“She seems good,” Mott said of how the bay has recovered from her setback as he watched her gallop over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track on Tuesday.
War Like Goddess scored in last year’s Joe Hirsch with an off-the-pace trip engineered by Jose Lezcano, pouncing from six lengths back to notch the 2 3/4-length triumph over Bye Bye Melvin and garner a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure.
In addition to the Joe Hirsch, War Like Goddess’ 5-year-old campaign included successful title defenses in the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland and Grade 2 Glens Falls at Saratoga. She attempted a third Glens Falls coup last out at the Spa, but was defeated a neck by McKulick after a troubled trip that saw her become very rank through the first half-mile and steady twice under regular pilot Joel Rosario.
“I think if she’s on the inside and covered up early, that’s fine,” Mott said. “The fact that she was rank around the first turn [hindered her]. He [Rosario] asked her to run a little out of the gate and she was up on the bridle, and then he asked her to slow down. It’s like, ‘Do you want me to go, or do you want me to stop?’ You can’t have it both ways.”
War Like Goddess’ win in the Joe Hirsch propelled her to a second appearance at the Breeders’ Cup after finishing a close third in the 2021 Grade 1 Filly and Mare Turf. Last year, she remained in the company of males when taking on the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf and again finished third, defeated three lengths to returning rival Rebel’s Romance after saving ground on the inside and angling around Master Piece in the stretch to get up for show honors.
Over the past three seasons, War Like Goddess has worked her way to the upper echelon of the turf marathon division, male or female. She earned her first stakes victory in her second attempt when taking Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Orchid in 2021, and followed with her first of three consecutive scores in the Bewitch ahead of breakout scores in the Glens Falls and Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Saratoga, leading to her subsequent first trip to the Breeders’ Cup.
Junior Alvarado picks up the mount from post 6.
Godolphin’s Irish homebred Rebel’s Romance [post 5, William Buick] looks to make amends from a last-out trip to Saratoga where he contested the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 30, but clipped heels in the final turn and unseated jockey Richie Mullen.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, the son of Dubawi was making his first start since a seventh-place effort in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March and was in the midst of a strong bid from sixth in the nine-horse field when the incident occurred. He completed the course, was collared by the outrider and arrived back at the barn in good order, prompting his connections to briefly reroute him to the Grade 1 Arlington Million the next week at Colonial Downs before deciding to send the 5-year-old gelding back to Appleby’s yard at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket, England instead.
Sophie Chretien, Appleby’s traveling assistant, said Rebel’s Romance has settled in well at Belmont and continues to train forwardly since arriving in New York on Saturday.
“So far, so good,” said Chretien. “He traveled well. I think without the incident, he was going so well and to me, he would have won easily. It’s something we weren’t expecting. But in the mornings, he doesn’t show anything is wrong. He’s been racing a long time and he looks so happy, hopefully he goes over like that.”
Rebel’s Romance was a two-time Group 1 winner in Germany last year, taking the Grosser Preis von Berlin in August at Hoppegarten and the Preis von Europa in September at Cologne ahead of his successful trip to Keeneland to take the Breeders’ Cup Turf by 2 1/4 lengths with his signature off-the-pace rally under James Doyle.
While Rebel’s Romance often delivers eye-catching rallies, Chretien said she does not believe he is tied to any one pace scenario.
“I don’t think he needs to have a crazy pace, just a normal one,” said Chretien.
Out of the stakes-placed Street Cry mare Minidress, Rebel’s Romance boasts a lifetime record of 14-9-0-0 with field-best earnings of $2,994,610.
Trainer Christophe Clement looks to secure his second win in this event with Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso’s Soldier Rising [post 2, Jose Ortiz].
Soldier Rising makes his seventh attempt at an elusive Grade 1 score after finishing second in four of those efforts. The 5-year-old son of Frankel was a last-out second to Bolshoi Ballet in the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer on August 26 at the Spa, closing from 8 1/2 lengths back under Jose Ortiz to be defeated 4 1/2 lengths in an effort that awarded him the fourth triple digit Beyer of his career .
In addition to the Sword Dancer, Soldier Rising also finished second in the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational as a sophomore and in a pair of Grade 1s earlier this year at Belmont Park in the Man o’ War and Resorts World Casino Manhattan. He is in pursuit of his first trip to the winner’s circle since a narrow score in an optional claiming contest last July at Saratoga, but has hit the board in 4-of-7 starts since, all in graded company.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown brings a pair of contenders to the field with Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Louis Lazzinnaro and Michael Caruso’s Adhamo [post 4, Flavien Prat] and Peter Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Westerberg’s Stone Age [post 3, Irad Ortiz, Jr.].
Adhamo enters from a game third-place finish in the Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 12 at Colonial Downs where he came flying home late from 10th-of-11 under Flavien Prat to nab show honors by a neck over Never Explain and finish 2 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Set Piece.
Last year, Adhamo broke through at the top level with a strong 1 1/2-length victory over Epic Bromance in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park in his fourth state-side outing after making his first 11 starts in France. The 5-year-old Intello chestnut also boasts Grade 1 placings last year when third in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and Manhattan at Belmont.
Stone Age made his debut for Brown last out when finishing a tiring fifth in the Sword Dancer on August 26. He contested the early lead under Flavien Prat and had a half-length advantage at the one-mile call, but faded in the remaining stages and was defeated 11 1/2 lengths.
Previously trained by Aidan O’Brien, the 4-year-old Galileo colt finished a strong second to Rebel’s Romance in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year and was third in the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational. He seeks his first win since taking the Group 3 Derby Trial last May at Leopardstown.
Completing the field are:
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