ELMONT, NY – Running off just six days rest the Aidan O’Brien trained Athena lit up the tote board at odds of 10-1 to win Saturday’s Grade 1, $1,000,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes. The win was just her second career victory in ten lifetime starts.
Athena was making her United States debut in the Belmont Oaks, and it was clear that she enjoyed the experience very much. After sitting towards the back of the pack in the early stages of the race while saving ground running two wide she began to make her move on the turn. At the top of the stretch she had already started to take the lead, and then kicked clear in the stretch to win by a commanding two and a half lengths.
“There was no real plan, to be honest,” Moore said. “She’s a very straightforward filly. She’s taken her racing very well. I rode her before the start of the year and all she’s done is improve tremendously. In her first out, I wasn’t sure what she could do. The second time I rode her, she really impressed me. This was the third time I’ve rode her and I thought she was very impressive.
The Aidan O’Brien filly came into the race with just one victory in nine starts, but had been close in a few tough races this year. This kind of success in the United States could lead to her staying in the this country for more racing, and she will certainly keep to longer distances as this was her second straight solid showing going a mile and a quarter.
The major storyline coming into the race for Athena was the fact she had run overseas in the Group 1 Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes just six days ago. Handicappers and pundits were skeptical the filly could come all the way to the United States on such short rest and handle a race like this, but trainer Aidan O’Brien acted as though he was not worried about it after the race.
“I don’t think it was a surprise really because she traveled here well and [jockey] Donnacha [O’Brien] wasn’t hard on her when she ran last week at the Curragh,” said O’Brien’s traveling head lad T.J. Comerford. “Six days later, a mile and a quarter on hard ground is probably her trip. She can probably go a bit farther as well but it’s great to get her going at a mile and a quarter and she can go a mile and a half in time. She’s won over a mile and a quarter and she does it impressively.”
Athena returned $22.80 to win, $12.40 to place, and $9.10 to show. Thewayiam brought back $10.60 to place and $7,40 to show, while Chipolata paid $15.00 to show.