ELMONT, N.Y. – Catch a Glimpse will put her seven-race winning streak on the line as the 2015 Sovereign Award Horse of the Year highlights a talented 13-entry field in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational on Saturday as part of the Stars & Stripes Festival at Belmont Park.
The Oaks, held over 1 1/4 miles on the inner turf, is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November at Santa Anita Park.
Catch a Glimpse, who has won all six of her graded stakes starts, will leave from post 12 with jockey Florent Geroux in the irons. Trainer Mark Casse, has kept the chestnut filly in Keeneland but is optimistic for her Belmont debut coming off a 2 ¼-length victory over colts last out in the Grade 3 Penn Mile.
“We think she’s a really talented filly; she’s really gutsy,” said Norm Casse, the son and assistant to Mark. “She kind of makes her own luck and they gave away a nice easy pace for her, but I don’t think it would’ve mattered. She would’ve been tough to beat regardless. Now she’s marked that one off and now she’s got to mark off how far she wants to go.”
The Belmont Oaks will mark the longest race of Catch a Glimpse’s career. She has gone 1 1/16 miles twice, winning both the Grade 3 Edgewood and the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at that distance.
“This will be a real test for her as far as distance, but if they let her get comfortable early, she’ll be really hard to run down,” Casse said.
Catch a Glimpse led gate-to-wire in the Penn Mile and has won seven of her eight starts in large part by sticking close to the pace before taking the lead at the stretch.
“I think anytime you have a horse that likes to go out early and sit along through moderate fractions, you’re at a competitive advantage,” Casse said. “Because you stay out of traffic, you’re really kind of dictating what’s going out in front, how fast the race is setting up really. So anytime you can have a horse do that, it’s a huge advantage. The question is just how far she wants to go, that’ll be the question mark on Saturday.”
Doug O’Neill’s Land Over Sea has finished first or second in four of her last five starts and is looking for her first career Grade 1 victory after finishing in the money in three of her four starts at that level.
Land Over Sea is making her first start since coming in sixth in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on Preakness Day May 20 at Pimlico. That effort came on the heels of a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. The 2015 Breeders’ Cup participant also finished third in her Grade 1 debut in the Del Mar Debutante and second in the Grade 1 Chandelier in September at Santa Anita.
At 2-5-1 in 10 career starts, Land Over Sea will leave from post 10 with Mario Gutierrez in the saddle.
Trainer Chad Brown will send three entries as he seeks his third consecutive victory in the Belmont Oaks. Brown will saddle Last Waltz, Noble Beauty and Pricetoperfection.
Brown has trained the last two Belmont Oaks winners, including Minorette in 2014 and Lady Eli last year. In 2012 and 2013, Brown also trained winners Samitar and Alterite when the race was called the Garden City.
Last Waltz, who finished third last out in the listed Wonder Again on June 5 at Belmont, drew post 9 and will leave with jockey Manny Franco. The Swift Thoroughbreds’ Irish-bred bay filly went five furlongs in 1:02.55 on Sunday over Belmont’s inner turf.
“Last Waltz is maturing at the right time. She’s really been improving each start and each breeze this year,” Brown said. “I thought she breezed well on Sunday. She seems to be getting better and the 1 ¼ miles should suit her.”
Noble Beauty will leave from post 5 with jockey Javier Castellano in the irons. The daughter of 2004 Eclipse Award-winning champion grass horse Kitten’s Joy will be making just her fourth career start but is coming off a second-place showing in the Grade 3 Regret on June 18 at Churchill in her graded stakes debut.
“Noble Beauty is a late bloomer,” Brown said. “She definitely outruns her training in the morning. She’s a true afternoon horse. She seems like she wants more ground. The race is a lot of money, and she just has to walk out of her stall. No trip. She came out of her Churchill Downs race well.”
Pricedtoperfection is 1-2-1 in her last four starts, including her first career graded stakes victory in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant on January 30 at Gulfstream Park. The bay filly registered a career-high 85 Beyer Speed Figure last out with a second-place finish in the listed Penn Oaks on June 4 at Penn National.
“I don’t hold as strong a hand as in previous years, but all three horses are all doing well and we’re taking a different role in not being one of the favorites,” Brown said. “It’s a big field, and it might come down to trip. If I didn’t think it was possible they could get a piece of this million-dollar purse, I wouldn’t run. My philosophy is if they can earn their way into the big races, we like to participate.”
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has a pair of solid entries from Ireland. Ballydoyle, who won the Group 1 Criterium des Pouliches in October at Longchamp before finishing second in the prestigious Group 1 One Thousand Guineas on May 1 at Newmarket, will leave from post 7 under jockey Colm O’Donoghue.
Like Ballydoyle, O’Brien’s Coolmore will also be making her United States debut. The chestnut filly was fifth in the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines at Chantilly last out. Jockey Jamie Spencer will exit from the outside post position under Coolmore, who is looking for her first win since the Group 3 C.L. & M.F. Weld Park last September.
An international field also includes Magnanime, from Great Britain, who will break from post 11 under jockey Julien Leparoux. Trained by Fabrice Chappet, Magnanime finished fifth last out in the Group 1 Pour Moi Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary at Deauville Racecourse and previously won the Prix Finlande at Chantilly.
Keith Desormeaux’s Decked Out arrived in Belmont from California on Tuesday night. The Big Chief Thoroughbreds’ chestnut filly is coming off a personal-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Honeymoon on June 19. Decked Out breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Saturday in her last workout at Santa Anita before flying to New York. She will leave from post 2 with Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux in the irons.
“She looks good and comfortable. She’s settling in nicely,” Desormeaux assistant Julie Clark said. “Keith said she’s as fit as she’s ever been, so we’ll see how she likes this turf course.”
Bill Mott’s Harmonize, out of post 6, already has one graded stakes victory on her ledger in the Grade 3 Jessamine and finished just a half-length behind Time and Motion last out in the Wonder Again. Time and Motion will match up against Harmonize again as the Jimmy Toner-trained bay filly will leave from post 4.
“She’s doing terrific,” Toner said. “I’m excited about racing here Saturday.”
Auntie Joy, trained by Brendan Walsh, won the Grade 3 Regret last out and will look for a second consecutive graded stakes victory as she leaves from post 8.
Secure Access has the inside post position. Saddled by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, she will be making her first career stakes start. Leading meet rider Jose Ortiz will have the mount.
Stars & Stripes Day, which also features the Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational, as well as the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap, the Grade 3, $500,000 Dwyer, the Grade 3, $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship and the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride.