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Belmont At The Big A Picks | Pennine Ridge Stakes 2024
Risk Tolerance (NYRA)

Belmont At The Big A Picks | Pennine Ridge Stakes 2024

Aaron previews the 2024 Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2) from Belmont at the Big A, then gives his top win pick from Saturday’s feature horse race.

Trainer Chad Brown’s debut winner Risk Tolerance steps up to the graded stakes ranks for his 2nd career start. Will the class hike prove too tough?

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The press release:

Godolphin’s British-bred Legend of Time seeks his first stateside score versus a field of six rivals in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge, a nine-furlong outer turf test for sophomores, at the Belmont at the Big A meet

The first three finishers of the Pennine Ridge will receive an automatic invitation to the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational, a 1 3/16-mile turf test for sophomores on Saturday, July 6th, at Belmont at the Big A.

The Pennine Ridge is slated as Race 7 on Saturday’s 11-race program. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern. 

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Trained by Charlie Appleby, the Sea The Stars bay made his stateside debut last-out in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 American Turf on May 4 at Churchill Downs. There, he went off as the post-time favorite and stalked from second position, nearly making the lead in the stretch before giving way late en route to a fifth-place finish. 

Appleby’s traveling assistant Chris Connett is currently overseeing seven Godolphin-owned horses at their Greentree property in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. located adjacent to Saratoga Race Course, including Legend of Time as well as Silver Knott, Nations Pride, Master of the Seas, Musical Act, English Rose and Mischief Magic. An additional fleet of Appleby runners is expected to arrive in New York on Friday to prepare for starts at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga.

Connett said Legend of Time, who exited post 4-of-14 in the Grade 2 American Turf on a bustling Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill, performed admirably to finish fifth in his stateside debut.

“It wasn’t an ideal draw and he had to be handy. I think the team thought there would be a bit more pace in the race than there was,” Connett said. “It was a big learning curve in that first race at Churchill, but he shipped up to Saratoga and settled in here at Greentree really nicely. He’s really settled into a nice rhythm here and we’re very happy with the way he’s going into the race.”

Legend of Time won 4-of-5 starts overseas in a campaign that saw him score thrice at Meydan Racecourse including the seven-furlong Jumeirah Guineas Trial in January, the one-mile Jumeirah Guineas in February and the nine-furlong Jumeirah Classic in March. 

“He ran the three times out there in Dubai, stepping up in trip each time. He’s a horse that was highly regarded in the U.K. last year,” Connett said. “It seems the further he steps up; we’re finding improvement in him.”

Connett said the versatile Legend of Time will be a good fit with Hall of Famer Joel Rosario, who will have the call for the first time Saturday from post 2.

“I think he’s fairly flexible. It will just depend on the set up of the race,” Connett said. “If there’s pace to run at then he doesn’t have to be that close, but if it’s going to be a slow go around, he can be a bit closer.”

Out of the multiple group/graded stakes-placed Danehill Dancer mare Kissable, Legend of Time is a half-brother to Grade 1-placed Amandine. He will carry a field-high 122 pounds, four pounds more than each of his six Belmont at the Big A rivals.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, who captured this event last year with Kalik in addition to past scores with Demarchelier [2019] and Camelot Kitten [2016], will send out promising maiden-winners Risk Tolerance and White Palomino. 

Klaravich Stables’ Irish-bred Risk Tolerance [post 3, Manny Franco] was impressive when graduating first-out in a local 1 1/16-mile maiden tilt on April 21. There, the Kingman bay traveled comfortably in third position of the 12-horse field before being tipped out by returning rider Manny Franco to pass the pacesetting Coast Along in the final sixteenth, earning an 83 Beyer Speed Figure in the three-quarter-length victory.  

James Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s White Palomino [post 1, Flavien Prat] graduated last-out at second asking when traveling 1 3/16 miles over good turf on April 6 at Keeneland. The Kitten’s Joy dark bay improved upon a third on debut when bumped in the stretch as returning rival Triple Espresso closed strongly widest-of-all to win by 2 3/4 lengths. 

Repole Stable and St Elias Stables’ Triple Espresso [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] will return to the turf after a fourth-place finish in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 23 over the Turfway Park synthetic. Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the stakes-placed Omaha Beach bay traveled in ninth-of-10 early before closing to miss show-honors by a head to recent Preakness-winner Seize the Grey. Kentucky Derby-starters Endlessly and West Saratoga were first and second, respectively. 

Triple Espresso made his racing debut with place-honors in the 1 1/16-mile Kitten’s Joy in September at Colonial Downs ahead of a fifth in the Grade 2 Pilgrim here in October. In his seasonal bow, he returned to maiden special weight company to graduate at fourth-asking in January at Gulfstream Park. 

Pletcher looks to add a fourth Pennine Ridge to his resume after winning in 2021-22 with Sainthood and Emmanuel, respectively, in addition to the inaugural running with Gala Award [2014]. 

The Keri Brion-conditioned St James the Great [post 6, Javier Castellano] graduated at fourth-asking going Saturday’s distance in November at Laurel Park. He will step up in class following a fifth there in an April allowance where he traveled inside and got stuck behind a wall of horses as he attempted to close. 

“It was a horrific trip. He was checked back to last, they went slow, he was completely strangled,” said Brion. “He is going to have to step up, but I think [it’s possible] with the mile and an eighth and the quality of horses. I’m hoping he progresses, so we will take a bit of a shot.”

By Catholic Boy, who won the 2018 Pennine Ridge before Grade 1 scores in the Belmont Derby and Travers, St James the Great ran into stiff competition early for owners Serio Racing Stables, USA Steeplechase, R and K Racing, Paul Willis and Molly Willis. He was second to eventual graded-stakes winner Neat third-out and prior to that landed fifth in a maiden won by Fulmineo, who took Saturday’s James W. Murphy at Pimlico Race Course. 

“This horse was second to Neat who won the [Grade 2] Transylvania. This is a really good horse. He has been knocking against good horses his whole career so far,” Brion said. “Javier wants to ride him, PJ Campo [agent] was all about Javier riding him. We are taking a shot, but we have the right rider to do it and I like the horse.” 

Rounding out the field are a pair of last-out allowance winners in Cable Ready [post 4, Eliseo Ruiz], who also won the Tin Cup Chalice sprinting six furlongs on the dirt in November at Finger Lakes for trainer Linda Dixon; and the Hall of Famer Bill Mott-trained Royal Majesty [post 5, Junior Alvarado], a British-bred Frankel bay, who is out of the Grade 1-winning Smart Strike mare Crown Queen – a half-sister to Hall of Famer Royal Delta.