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Belmont At The Big A Picks | Soaring Softly Stakes 2024
Belmont at the Big A (Jason Moran/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Belmont At The Big A Picks | Soaring Softly Stakes 2024

Woodford Thoroughbreds’ Irish-bred stakes-winner Pipsy will make her stateside debut off a seven-month layoff versus an overflow field in Sunday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Soaring Softly, a six-furlong outer turf sprint for sophomore fillies, at the Belmont at the Big A meet

The Soaring Softly is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s nine-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. 

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Trained by Will Walden, the Kodiac bay, who was previously trained by G. M. Lyons, beat males in the five-furlong Legacy over synthetic in October at Dundalk after graduating at second asking sprinting six-furlongs over yielding turf in September at The Curragh. 

“Overseas, she was forwardly placed in her wins. That being said, over there the opening quarters for sprint races are more like 22 and 4, or 23 and change. It’s very controlled,” said Walden. “They kick and sprint home. I don’t think she’s seen 21 and change up in front of her before, so I wouldn’t expect her to be on the lead, but I expect her to be forwardly placed.” 

Pipsy has recorded weekly works for Walden since February 27, most recently covering a half-mile in 50.80 seconds over the Keeneland dirt on May 4. 

“I think she is nice. How nice? I really can’t tell you, because we haven’t let her out of third gear in the morning,” said Walden. “What she has done in the morning has been plenty and it’s been impressive, but we’ve never emptied the clip.” 

Bred by Noel Finegan, Pipsy, out of the High Chaparral mare Experte, was purchased for $928,489 at the 2023 Tattersalls December Mare Sale– a large price increase from her original tag of $67,918 at the 2021 Goffs November Foal Sale after the strong start to her racing career. 

Walden said that her recent price was based more on her performances rather than a strong pedigree that features a stakes-placed second dam in Arme Ancienne, who produced Group 2-winner and multiple graded stakes-placed Ziyad. 

“I think her purchase price is purely reflective of what she did on the racetrack, she was a relatively modest priced foal,” Walden said. “She’s a little bit on the smaller side, more of a typical Kodiac, more of a shorter distance make and model. She’s not an ugly filly by any means. The thing I love about her most is she moves like a really big horse. When you walk next to her, you struggle to keep up because of her range of motion. 

“She has a beautiful eye set. I’m expecting her to run well,” Walden added, who seeks his first graded stakes win Sunday. 

Flavien Prat will look to engineer a winning Belmont at the Big A trip from post 9. 

Dual stakes-winner Amidst Waves [post 7, John Velazquez] will return from a six-month layoff for conditioner George Weaver.

The Midshipman chestnut won 3-of-6 efforts last year including the Bolton Landing in August at Saratoga Race Course and the Colleen in July at Monmouth Park for owners Big Tufff Stables, Blackridge Stables, Black Type Thoroughbreds, R.A. Hill Stable and Swinkbank Stables.

Amidst Waves’ strong juvenile campaign came to a close with an off-the-board finish in the five-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in November at Santa Anita, won by the multiple group/graded-winning colt Big Evs. She entered off a nose-defeat versus males in Keeneland’s 5 1/2-furlong Indian Summer in October. 

Amidst Waves graduated at second asking through a 20-1 upset over returning rival Kodiac Wintergreen in a five-furlong turf maiden in June at Belmont Park. 

Bred in Kentucky by Woods Edge Farm and Ballyfair Bloodstock, Amidst Waves, a $100,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, is out of the Into Mischief mare Troublesome and comes from the same family as stakes-winning sprinter Five Star Dream. 

On the outside looking in is the Weaver-conditioned Caress [post AE11, Junior Alvarado], owned by Black Type Thoroughbreds, Swinbank Stables, Steve Adkisson, and R. A. Hill Stable. The Connect chestnut hopes to draw in off a pair of prominent thirds versus optional-claiming company over the Gulfstream Park dirt, traveling seven furlongs on March 15 and six furlongs​​ on April 14. 

Out of the winning Distorted Humor mare Fun Affair, Caress was a $450,000 purchase at the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Her second dam is Grade 1-winner Caressing, who won the 2000 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies before being named that year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Filly. 

Trainer Christophe Clement, who captured last year’s Soaring Softly (held at Belmont Park) with Queen Picasso in addition to the 2021 edition with Bye Bye, attempts to defend his title now at the Belmont at the Big A meet with Castleton Lyon’s El Terreno [post 4, Joel Rosario]. The stakes-placed New York-bred Marco T. [post AE13, Manny Franco] is also-eligible for Clement. 

As a juvenile, El Terreno was impressive in an 11-length debut score sprinting six furlongs in October over the Presque Isle Downs synthetic ahead of a 4 1/4-length victory traveling five furlongs over the Gulfstream Park Tapeta in December. The latter effort received a career-best 85 Beyer Speed Figure. 

In her seasonal bow, the Speightstown dark bay went off as a heavy favorite in the five-furlong Melody of Colors on March 24 over Gulfstream’s Tapeta but was eased home after giving way following a pace-duel with the victorious Twirling Queen. 

El Terreno has completed a pair of five furlong breezes in 1:02.60 over the Payson Park Training Center dirt since her last effort, most recently on April 26. 

“She’s doing well. She ran disappointingly last time, but she has trained well since then,” said Clement. “As long as the ground is firm, or not too soft, she will run. The turf is OK as long as it is fast.” 

Bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate, El Terreno is out of the New York-bred Malibu Moon mare Palma. She boasts a record of 3-2-0-0 with $55,600 in earnings. 

Michael Iavarone, Jules Iavarone, and Mark Frimmel’s Group 3-winner Tiger Belle [post 1, Trevor McCarthy] looks for her first win for conditioner Saffie Joseph, Jr. Previously trained by Adrian McGuinness in Ireland, she is making her second start stateside for Joseph, Jr. after finishing fourth in the aforementioned Melody of Colors at Gulfstream.

Last year, the Irish-bred Cotai Glory bay was 3-for-6 with a Group 3-score in the five-furlong Prix d’Arenberg in August at Longchamp before an off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint to close her campaign. There, she was 1 1/2 lengths off the pacesetting Crimson Advocate in third position after three-eighths before tiring late. 

Bregman Family Racing’s stakes-placed Kodiac Wintergreen [post 6, Luis Saez] enters off a third in an off-the-turf edition of the 5 1/2-furlong Limestone on April 12 at Keeneland. 

Trained by George Arnold, the Kodiac bay was making her second stakes attempt after a fourth in the Juvenile Fillies in September at Kentucky Downs to close her juvenile campaign. There, she stretched out to one-mile after exhibiting a strong closing kick when breaking her maiden at second-asking sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs in July at Saratoga.

Bred in Ireland by Patrick Grogan, Kodiac Wintergreen, out of the Pivotal mare Humble And Proud, is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Glorious Empire, who won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer and Grade 2 Bowling Green in 2018 at Saratoga. 

Martin Schwartz and Michael O’Callaghan’s Group 3-winner Kairyu [post 5, Kendrick Carmouche], who was previously conditioned by O’Callaghan, will make her second start for conditioner Cherie DeVaux on the heels of an off-the-board finish in the one-mile Grade 2 Appalachian on April 6 at Keeneland. 

The Kuroshio bay won her debut by 3 1/4 lengths sprinting five furlongs over good turf in June at Naas then won the six-furlong Group 3 Anglesey over soft green in July at The Curragh. 

West Point Thoroughbreds and Scarlet Oak Racing’s Independenceavenue [post 10, Manny Franco] pressed the pace last out in the one-mile Ginger Brew on January 6 at Gulfstream before weakening late and fading to eighth. 

Trained by Arnaud Delacour, the Mr Speaker bay entered off consecutive wins, taking a 5 1/2-furlong maiden tilt in September at Colonial Downs by 4 1/4-lengths ahead of a 3 1/2 length score in one-mile optional claimer in November at Tampa Bay Downs. 

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Independenceavenue is out of the winning graded stakes-placed Quick Road mare Off the Road, who was named Brazil’s Champion 2-Year-Old Filly in 2014. 

Rounding out the field at Belmont at the Big A is:

  • Graded stakes-placed Buttercream Babe [post 2, Ramon Vazquez] for conditioner Mike Maker
  • Stakes-placed Baraye [post 3, Junior Alvarado] for trainer Wesley Ward, who won the 2022 edition at Belmont Park
  • Optional claiming-winner Golden Ghost [post 8, Dylan Davis] for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse, who debuted in last year’s Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park

Artemis Sound [post AE13, Jose Lezcano] is also-eligible for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, along with Value Area, who is entered for the main track-only.