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Belmont At The Big A Picks | Beaugay Stakes 2024
Neecie Marie (Sue Kawczynski/Eclipse Sportswire)

Belmont At The Big A Picks | Beaugay Stakes 2024

Michael Milam’s dual graded stakes-placed Neecie Marie will make her 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Beaugay, a 1 1/16-mile outer turf test, at the Belmont at the Big A meet.

The Beaugay is slated as Race 2 on Saturday’s 11-race card at Belmont at the Big A, which also features Grade 2, $400,000 Man o’ War in Race 7, the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan in Race 6 and the Grade 3, $175,000 Runhappy in Race 4. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

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Trained by Butch Reid, Jr., the Pennsylvania-bred Neecie Marie posted two solid runner-up efforts to the Charlie Appleby-trained favorite Eternal Hope over this course last fall when a neck in arrears in the 11-furlong Grade 3 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational and a half-length back in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Sands Point.

The Cross Traffic bay, a modest $25,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale purchase, worked her way up the ranks after graduating in a $25,000 claimer sprinting six furlongs over the Parx main track last May to garner just a 43 Beyer Speed Figure.

Neecie Marie stretched out to one mile and 70 yards and switched to turf next up, taking an optional-claimer against older company in prominent fashion over firm footing in June at Parx to register a 78 Beyer.

She regressed over soft going traveling 7 1/2-furlongs in a restricted allowance on July 12 at Delaware Park but avenged in short order with two sharp scores at Parx – first in prominent fashion against older company to best open optional-claimers on July 24 ahead of a rallying 2 1/4-length win in the state-bred Mrs. Penny in August to set up her graded efforts here.

Reid, Jr. said Neecie Marie, last seen finishing fifth in the off-the-turf Grade 3 Mrs. Revere on November 24 at Churchill Downs, has improved with time off.

“She’s put on weight and her body has matured over the last year. I think she’s going to have a very productive year. She’s doing great coming into this,” Reid, Jr. said.

Reid, Jr. scratched Neecie Marie from the one-mile Dahlia on April 20 at Laurel Park in favor of the longer Beaugay at Belmont at the Big A.

“She’s doing really well and the best part about it is she can run all day. When those longer turf races come up this summer, she’ll be ready for them,” Reid, Jr. said.

Neecie Marie is out of the winning Posse mare Lode Lady, who is a half-sister to 2022 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby-winner Rich Strike and Grade 2-winning turfer Llanarmon. She has banked $265,700 through a 9-4-2-0 record.

Joel Rosario will pilot Neecie Marie from post 2.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will send out Grade 1-winner Whitebeam [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Grade 2-winner Aspray [post 4, Flavien Prat] in search of a record-extending seventh win in this event. Both horses have worked extensively at Payson Park Training Center in Florida in preparation for their seasonal debuts.

Juddmonte’s British-homebred Whitebeam won a trio of consecutive starts in Europe before joining the Brown stable last year, posting a close runner-up effort to multiple graded stakes-winner Evvie Jets on debut here last April in the Listed Plenty of Grace.

The 5-year-old Caravaggio mare followed with a 2 1/2-length score in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Gallorette last May at Pimlico, a key race that runner-up Sopran Basilea exited to win Delaware Park’s Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial and third-place Bipartisanship followed with a win in the restricted President’s Cup at Parx.

Whitebeam made her Saratoga Race Course debut in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Diana with a prominent trip under Flavien Prat, dueling beyond her favored multiple Grade 1-winning stablemate In Italian to notch a narrow nose victory. Third-place finisher Fev Rover exited the Diana to win the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Colonial Downs.

Whitebeam completed her campaign with fourth-place finishes in both the Grade 1 First Lady in October at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Matriarch in December at Del Mar. She is out of the Oasis Dream mare Sleep Walk, who is a half-sister to Group 1-winner Logician and multiple graded stakes-winner Suffused.

RanJan Racing’s Kentucky homebred Aspray was last seen making the grade in the Spa’s Grade 2 Lake Placid in August at Saratoga. The 4-year-old Quality Road bay, with returning rider Prat aboard, stalked from fourth position before making a four-wide move to post a two-length score over stablemate Surge Capacity, who exited that effort to score consecutive wins in the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Matriarch at Del Mar.

Aspray, out of the multiple group stakes-winning Galileo mare Up, has won 4-of-5 starts, including a victory in the Hilltop last May at Pimlico. The lone blemish on her record is a fourth-place finish in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational in July at Belmont Park.

The in-form Spirit And Glory [post 3, Jose Lezcano] has won two of her last three outings, including the 1 1/16-mile Albert M. Stall Memorial in February at Fair Grounds and the one-mile Plenty of Grace last out on April 21 here.

Trained and co-owned by Robert Falcone, Jr. with Michael Nentwig, Michael Dubb, Beast Mode Racing and John Rochfort, the 5-year-old Cotai Glory bay made every pole a winning one in the four-horse Plenty of Grace en route to a five-length score over Group 3-winner Midnight Mile.

Spirit And Glory launched her current campaign from a six-month layoff with an impressive ground-saving run to win the Albert M. Stall Memorial over soft ground at Fair Grounds, besting multiple stakes-placed Tryinmyheartout by three-quarters of a length.

The Irish-bred posted a visually-appealing score in her U.S. debut in June 2022 at Belmont Park, closing from last-of-8 to win an optional-claimer. She followed two starts later by adding the Virginia Oaks to her ledger with a strong close from 12th-of-14 to score by 1 1/4-lengths. Last year, she captured the Miss Liberty at Monmouth Park as her lone win from five starts that included a neck defeat to Closing Remarks in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap in August at Del Mar to complete her campaign.

Rounding out a compact but talented field is the Robert Ribaudo-trained two-time winner Quarrel [post 1, Javier Castellano], who is cross-entered in a Friday allowance event here.

Movie Moxy, Bustin Bay and Ocean Gateway are entered for the main-track only.