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ELMONT, NY – Juvenile stakes action in New York this year commences on Thursday when a field of six freshman fillies assemble for the 109th running of the $150,000 Astoria going 5 1/2 furlongs over the Belmont Park main track.
Trainer Wesley Ward, a 2-time Astoria winner, will send out Happy Soul who impressed in her second career start with a decisive 11 3/4-length victory travelling 5 furlongs on May 13 at Belmont Park, registering an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.
The Astoria, named after a town in Queens, is one of three stakes events carded for Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from June 3-5. Joining the Astoria on Thursday’s card will be the $200,000 Wonder Again (G3) for sophomore fillies going 9 furlongs over the inner turf and the $200,000 Intercontinental (G3) for fillies and mares 4 years old and upward going 7 furlongs over the Widener turf.
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Owned by Gayla Rankin, the daughter of medication-free second crop-sire Runhappy was second on debut to stablemate Nakatomi, who targets the Astoria’s counterpart race – the $150,000 Tremont on Friday. The bay filly was never in doubt last out as she extended her advantage throughout the journey.
“She’s a nice filly and ran a good race. It looks like she can still grow into a nice frame,” Ward said. “She’s doing great. She won so easily the other day that we figured we would give this a shot. She is a good-training filly.”
Bred in Kentucky by Harris Training Center, Happy Soul is out of the Stephen Got Even mare Cowgirl Lucky. She was bought for $50,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where she was consigned by James M. Herbener, Jr.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was in the irons in both starts and will return in pursuit of his fifth Astoria score from post 4.
Essential Quality Draws Post 2, Named 2/1 Morning Line Favorite for Belmont Stakes
Terry Hutto’s American Bound gave freshman sire American Freedom his first winner and could give the 2016 Runhappy Travers runner-up his first stakes winner as well when breaking from post 6 for trainer Joe Sharp.
American Bound was a 1 1/2-length winner over the Keeneland main track on debut before finishing fifth over a sloppy and sealed track in the Kentucky Juvenile on April 28 at Churchill Downs.
American Bound was a frugal $15,000 acquisition from this year’s OBS Winter Sale, where she was consigned by Sharon Biamonte.
Jockey Luis Saez will return to the irons.
Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse will saddle Gary Barber’s Constitution Gal in her first start over the main track.
The gray or roan daughter of third-crop sire Constitution was a distant third to Royal Ascot-bound Twilight Gleaming in her debut, which took pace over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche will guide Constitution Gal from post 3.
Constitution Gal was bought from Parrish Farms consignment barn for $150,000 at this year’s OBS March Sale. She is the first offspring out of the unraced Spring At Last mare Spring Island.
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Mainstay, a half-sister to 2-year-old Champion Filly Vequist, will exit post 2 under Frankie Pennington in her career debut. Trained by Butch Reid Jr., Mainstay is by Astern and out of the Mineshaft mare Vero Amore.
Rounding out the field are Midsummer Nights [post 5, Manny Franco], and She’s So Shiny [post 1, Mychel Sanchez].
The Astoria is carded as Race 7 on Thursday’s nine-race program at Belmont Park. First post is 3:05 p.m.
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