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Belmont At The Big A Preview | Mother Goose Stakes 2023: Xigera Looks To Make The Grade
Xigera (Gary Johnson/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Belmont At The Big A Preview | Mother Goose Stakes 2023: Xigera Looks To Make The Grade

Rigney Racing’s Xigera will look to make the grade in Saturday’s 66th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose, a nine-furlong route for sophomore fillies, at Belmont at the Big A.

The Mother Goose, slated as Race 8, is one of three stakes on Saturday’s lucrative 11-race program, including the Grade 2, $300,000 Forty Niner in Race 10, and the listed $135,000 Awad in Race 9. First post is 12:05 p.m. Eastern.

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Trained by Philip Bauer, the Nyquist dark bay has flashed talent on turf and dirt, taking the Tepin over the Ellis Park green in July and the Seneca Overnight last out on September 23 over the Churchill Downs main track.

With Julien Leparoux aboard in the Seneca Overnight, Xigera tracked the early foot of She’s Lookin Lucky through splits of 48.07 seconds and 1:12.24 before making her bid near the quarter-pole and drawing off to a 6 1/4-length score in a final time of 1:41.92 to garner a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

“She’s always been the right temperament kind of filly to be a real good racehorse,” Bauer said. “She has a sharp edge to her and it transfers over to her races. I tell people she has a short fuse – she’s easy to deal with until that fuse is burnt. She’s doing great and we’re excited. She ships up this afternoon.”

Xigera posted a bullet breeze two works out from her Seneca score and has followed the same pattern into the Mother Goose, breezing a bullet five-eighths in 59.40 on October 13 ahead of an easy half-mile in 49 flat Sunday while preparing over the Churchill main track.

Bauer said the team flirted with shipping Xigera to Santa Anita Park for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff before landing on the Mother Goose.

“We made sure the work two out was a good one and we were still trying to decide if we were going to fly out to California,” Bauer said. “We talked in circles about it and decided that maybe the best thing at the moment would be to get her a graded black type win, if we can.”

A maiden winner at second asking last August over the Saratoga Race Course turf, Xigera moved to the main track last October at Keeneland and was elevated to third in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades. The winner of that event, Wonder Wheel, went on to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland to secure Champion 2-Year-Old Filly honors, while Xigera tried her luck in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf but landed last-of-14 after a troubled start.

Bauer entered Xigera in four straight turf starts from November through August, winning twice in Kentucky, before taking her back to dirt in the Seneca following an off-the-board effort over soft going in the Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational.

“If she wins the Mother Goose, maybe I’ll be frustrated with myself for waiting as long as I did to try her back on the dirt, but she was a nice filly in her own right on the grass,” Bauer said. “When you win two grass races in a row and one of them in a stake as a 3-year-old, you’d almost call yourself crazy to try her on the dirt if she’d run bad. 

“She’s one of the favorites in the barn because she is one that takes her race anywhere and we’re certainly excited to try,” added Bauer.

Xigera, out of the stakes-winning Black Tie Affair mare Argent Affair, is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Forty Under, who won the 2018 Grade 3 Pilgrim over the Belmont Park turf.

Leparoux retains the mount from post 6.

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Katsumi Yoshida’s Defining Purpose [post 7, Junior Alvarado] earned Grade 1 glory in April at Keeneland with a 20-1 upset score in the Ashland when posting a prominent half-length score over Punchbowl, who was a neck better than returning rival Julia Shining.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, the Cross Traffic grey followed with a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs but redeemed herself off a two-month break by besting Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan-winner Taxed in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks.

Defining Purpose, out of the multiple stakes-winning Strong Hope mare Defining Hope, was subsequently third, defeated five lengths by the victorious Randomized, in the Grade 1 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales in August at the Spa and was last seen finishing a distant fifth in the Grade 1 Cotillion contested at 1 1/16-miles over a sloppy and sealed main track on September 23 at Parx. She has trained since at Belmont Park, posting a pair of sharp works over the dirt training track.

Alpha Delta Stables’ Occult [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] exits a third-place finish in the Cotillion, rallying from last-of-9 to finish 1 3/4-lengths back of Ceiling Crusher, who successfully shipped in from the West Coast.

Trained by Chad Brown, the Into Mischief dark bay won the nine-furlong Busanda here in January over Gambling Girl, who went on complete the exacta in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

Occult closed to finish third in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Acorn in June at Belmont, landing four lengths back of Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous and followed with a dominant score in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks over returning rival Foggy Night.

The $625,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, out of the graded stakes-winning Empire Maker mare Magical Feeling, is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Exulting and stakes winner Magical.

Brown will also saddle a pair of sophomore contenders for Klaravich Stables in dual graded stakes-placed Undervalued Asset [post 4, Manny Franco] and maiden winner Peak Popularity [post 2, Dylan Davis].

Undervalued Asset, a Speightstown bay, graduated on debut here in November and followed with a runner-up effort in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Forward Gal in February at Gulfstream Park. She defeated winners in July at Saratoga but was out finished next up when second in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks by Vahva, who exited that effort to win the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland.

Undervalued Asset enters from a distant fifth-place finish on October 1 here in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom traveling 6 1/2-furlongs and will stretch out beyond one-mile for the first time.

Peak Popularity, a Mendelssohn chestnut, graduated at third asking in a 10-furlong maiden versus elders on April 29 at Churchill. The $435,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale purchase has since hit the board in a pair of routes, finishing third in a nine-furlong optional-claimer for sophomore fillies in June at Ellis Park and second in a 10-furlong off-the-turf allowance facing older company on August 25 at the Spa.

Pine Brook Farm’s Foggy Night [post 1, Jose Lezcano], winner of the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks in July, will look to make amends from a distant sixth-place finish last out in the Grade 1 Cotillion.

Trainer Butch Reid, Jr. refused to blame the sloppy and sealed going for the atypical result from the consistent Khozan chestnut.

“It was a tough race. Those were the best 3-year-old fillies in the country and she acquitted herself well,” Reid, Jr. said. “She’s a top filly and if things go right she can compete with the best of them.”

Foggy Night has posted four wins and five seconds from 11 starts, taking the Cathryn Sophia comfortably in August at Parx ahead of the Cotillion. She completed the exacta in the Tempted in November here and the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in July when 10 1/4-lengths back of the returning Occult.

Reid, Jr. said Foggy Night will relish the added distance.

“The further the better with her,” Reid, Jr. said. “She’s already shown that she ships well and handles all the things like that. She’s won at various different racetracks. We’re going in there feeling pretty good about it.”

Stonestreet Stables’ regally-bred Julia Shining [post 3, Javier Castellano] made the grade at second asking here for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, overcoming a bobbled start to post a neck score in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle over sloppy and sealed footing.

Julia Shining followed with third-place efforts in the Suncoast in February at Tampa Bay Downs and the aforementioned Ashland in April at Keeneland. Last out, she was eased when ninth in the Grade 1 Alabama in August at the Spa where she has continued to work regularly over Oklahoma training track.

The Kentucky homebred, by Curlin and out of the Pletcher-trained Grade 1-winning A. P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, is a full-sister to Pletcher’s dual Champion Malathaat.