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Belmont At The Big A Preview | Floral Park Stakes 2023: Bubble Rock Leads Field Of 8
Bubble Rock (Coady Photography)

Belmont At The Big A Preview | Floral Park Stakes 2023: Bubble Rock Leads Field Of 8

Shortleaf Stable’s Kentucky homebred Bubble Rock will pursue her fifth career stakes victory when leading a field of eight in Saturday’s sixth running of the $125,000 Floral Park for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going six furlongs on the outer turf at Belmont at the Big A.

The Floral Park is slated as Race 4 on Saturday’s 10-race program, which also features the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point in Race 2. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.  

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Trained by Brad Cox, Bubble Rock has finished in the money in all five of her starts this season while bragging field-best earnings of $712,943. She enters from a second-place finish to Roses for Debra in the Smart N Fancy on August 25 at Saratoga Race Course.

The 4-year-old More Than Ready dark bay last found the winner’s circle with an off-the-pace half-length triumph in the License Fee on May 7 over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park, which came one start after her 2023 debut in a one-mile Keeneland turf allowance, when second beaten a neck to multiple graded stakes winner Gam’s Mission.

Bubble Rock, a dual graded stakes winner, captured the Grade 3 Matron in October 2021 going six furlongs at Belmont en route to a 12th-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar. She completed her sophomore season with a triumph in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere in November going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs.

Bubble Rock has trained primarily with Cox’s New York-based string and regularly utilizes the all-weather pony track during her morning training.

“She’s a very eager and very aggressive horse to train,” said Cox’s Belmont-based assistant Dustin Dugas. “We train her on the pony track a lot. It’s a lot easier on her and a lot easier on the rider. She really likes the synthetic on the pony track.”

Bubble Rock’s affinity for the all-weather was displayed through a win in the Cincinnati Trophy last March at Turfway Park.

“Even when she’s at Keeneland, she’s always trained on that pony track which also is synthetic,” Dugas said. “Obviously, she’s a turf horse, but she just gets over that type of surface well.”

Bubble Rock is out of the three-time starting Giant’s Causeway mare Reef Point, whose dam Dixie City won Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Demoiselle in 2010.

Manny Franco will pilot Bubble Rock for the first time from post 1.

Trainer Michael Trombetta will ship R. Larry Johnson’s Can’t Buy Love [post 7, Trevor McCarthy] from his Fair Hill Training Center stable in Elkton, Maryland.

The 5-year-old Twirling Candy bay captured Woodbine’s Star Shoot over the all-weather surface in June 2021 and has been six-times stakes-placed. Third in last year’s Floral Park, she enters from a string of three stakes placings when second in the Goldwood on June 24 at Monmouth Park and the Andy Guest on July 22 at Colonial Downs before returning to Monmouth to finish a close third in the August 6 Incredible Revenge. She registered career-high 86 Beyer Speed Figures in her last two starts.

Can’t Buy Love was initially entered in the Sensible Lady on September 10 at Pimlico Race Course, but was scratched when inclement weather forced the five-furlong test onto the main track.

“She’s trained well; but it seems like the weather is always a factor and it looks like it could be a factor again this weekend,” Trombetta said. “We’re trained for it and we’re ready to go. It’s just a matter of getting the opportunity.”

Trombetta praised his mare for her consistency.

“She has certainly carried her own weight, no doubt about that,” Trombetta said.

Can’t Buy Love was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Pay the Kitten – a full sister to multiple Grade 1-winner and 2015 Champion Turf Male Big Blue Kitten.

Hall of Famer Bill Mott will saddle Arnmore Thoroughbreds’ Poppy Flower [post 5, Jose Ortiz] in pursuit of her first win since defeating Bubble Rock in the Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 9 over the Belmont inner turf.

The 4-year-old Lea chestnut will square off with Bubble Rock for the fourth consecutive time, finishing a last-out fourth in the Grade 3 Caress on July 22 at Saratoga where Bubble Rock was third. She finished second beaten a half-length to Bubble Rock in the License Fee.

A win would provide Poppy Flower with a fourth stakes score after wins last year in the Galway at Saratoga and the Stormy Blues at Laurel Park.

La Providencia and LNJ Foxwoods’ Scotish Star [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche] will pursue her first stakes triumph while under the care of Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.

The 6-year-old Argentinian-bred daughter of Key Deputy was campaigned primarily at the mile to 1 1/16-mile distances before a last out second going 5 1/2 furlongs on August 2 in an allowance optional-claimer over a firm Saratoga Mellon turf course. A Group 1 winner in her native land, Scotish Star earned graded black type when second in the Grade 3 Endeavour on February 4 and the Grade 2 Hillsborough on March 11, both at Tampa Bay Downs.

Completing the field are and the Tom Albertrani-trained, co-owned and co-bred five-time winner Itsakeyper [post 3, Junior Alvarado]; four-time winning Pennsylvania-bred Shoshanah [post 4, Katie Davis] for trainer, co-owner and breeder Kyle Horlacher; 18-time starting maiden Risk Free [post 6, Jose Gomez] for Edward DeLauro; and three-time winner Salvaje [post 8, Tyler Conner], who adds blinkers in her debut for trainer Dimitrios Synnefias.

Bank On Anna and Royal Poppy have been entered for main-track only.