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ELMONT, NY – A top-class field of turf fillies and mares topped by Mean Mary has assembled for Friday’s $750,000 New York (G2) at Belmont Park, a 1 1/4-mile inner turf test that has been won by the likes of Soaring Softly and Perfect Sting en route to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and year-end championships.
The New York is one of five stakes on Friday’s card, Day Two of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival [June 3-5] that culminates with the 153rd running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) Presented by NYRA Bets. The festival will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.
Friday’s diverse 11-race offering kicks off with a 12:50 p.m. Eastern first post and also features the $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup (G2) for turf marathoners; the $300,000 True North (G2) for dirt sprinters; the $300,000 Bed o’ Roses (G3) for filly and mare sprinters; and the $150,000 Tremont for juveniles.
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Looking to defend her New York title will be the popular Graham Motion-trained mare Mean Mary, who is owned by Alex G. Campbell Jr. and will be ridden by Luis Saez from post 7. The daughter of Scat Daddy seeks her seventh career victory in her 11th start and enters off an impressive gate-to-wire victory 3 weeks ago in Pimlico’s Gallorette (G3), her first start since finishing seventh in November’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
A dominant 5 1/4-length winner of last year’s New York, she faces an arguably tougher field in 2021 and the possibility of more cut in the ground.
“I nominated her to both the New York and the Manhattan,” Motion said. “It’s coming back a little quick, but I felt she had an easy go of it last week and we can use that as more of a prep to get us to this race. Her win was impressive, although we sort of had it handed to us. For me, it was perfect for her to have an easy go of it in her first race back. It worked out really well.”
Mean Mary Makes Connections Happy in Gallorette
Last year’s New York runner-up My Sister Nat is one of two runners owned by Peter Brant and trained by Chad Brown, with the other being recent German import Virginia Joy.
My Sister Nat, a half-sister to champion Sistercharlie and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Sottsass, is making her second start of her 6-year-old campaign following a fourth in the Sheepshead Bay (G2) on May 1. She was second in last fall’s Flower Bowl Invitational (G1) over this course and distance and – despite solid form at the top level – has 1 win in 10 stateside starts.
“With a bunch of other horses retiring, Mr. Brant wanted to give her another year to come back because she’s been lightly campaigned so far,” Brown explained. “It was a tough beat in the Flower Bowl, just missing a Grade 1 for this wonderful family, so we wanted to try again in a Grade 1 at some point this year. In her past, she has needed a race to get going and seems to get better as the year goes on. I’m not totally surprised by her last effort that she sort of needed one. She’s come back and worked well and is going to move forward, but she’s going to need to.”
Virginia Joy was eye-catching in her American bow, a course and distance allowance win. Last year, she was third in the Henkel-Preis der Diana (German Oaks) (G1) and won the Mehl-Mulhens Trophy (G3) – both over 11 furlongs.
“She’s doing well,” Brown said. “She ran really well here in April in her first start, winning over a mile and 1/4. She is talented.”
My Sister Nat breaks from 4 under Jose Ortiz, while Virginia Joy will have Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons from post 2.
Civil Union Ascends to the Top in Flower Bowl
The first three home in last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Harvey A Clarke’s Bill Mott-trained Harvey’s Lil Goil (post 5, Junior Alvarado), Godolphin’s Mike Stidham-conditioned Micheline (post 3, Florent Geroux), and Lael Stables’ Arnaud Delacour-trained Magic Attitude (post 1, Trevor McCarthy) – meet again, and all boast graded victories this season.
Magic Attitude, in particular, has proven potent over the local turf, landing last year’s Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) – part of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for fillies – and May’s Sheepshead Bay in her 2 Belmont runs. Group 1-placed in France for initial trainer Fabrice Chappet before transferring mid-2020 to Delacour, she has impressed her connections coming into the New York.
“She is in very good order right now,” Delacour said. “It’s been an uneventful prep and she came back very well from the Sheepshead Bay. She’s on schedule, training very well and I’m very happy with how she’s coming up to the race. There’s a question mark on the ground if it is too soft and I always feel that a fast track is what she prefers.
“A lot depends on the pace scenario,” he added. “Mean Mary and Harvey’s Lil Goil will be very tough, but our filly likes Belmont and is comfortable there because she’s very European in the way she runs, still. She needs a long stretch to get balanced, and if we can get good or good-to-firm turf, I think she’s going to be OK. It’s definitely a good race.”
Magic Attitude Wins American Debut in Belmont Oaks
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf third-place finisher Harvey’s Lil Goil is one of two entered for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, joined by Godolphin’s Antoinette, and enters off a smart tally in the Beaugay (G3) on May 8. Antoinette won last August’s $500,000 Saratoga Oaks, a Turf Triple series event last August, and enters off a fifth in Magic Attitude’s Sheepshead Bay.
Fellow Godolphin color-bearer Micheline seeks to rebound from a lackluster sixth in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland on April 10, 1 race after defeating Magic Attitude in Tampa Bay Downs’ Hillsborough (G2).
The in-form yard of Christophe Clement seeks its fifth New York with a pair of runners, Al Shira’aa Farms’ Sheepshead Bay runner-up Mutamakina (post 11, Javier Castellano) and Stone Farm’s local allowance victress Traipsing (post 10, Kendrick Carmouche).
While Traipsing arguably must step up her form to factor, Mutamakina had strong class lines in Europe prior to joining Clement in the fall, chasing home the aforementioned Arc winner Sottsass, English Oaks (G1) winner Anapurna, and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Audarya.
“When they’re running in New York and they’re training well, don’t make it too complicated – just run,” Clement said. “Both of them are training well. Mutamakina was very unlucky in her first race with the trip she got, but she ran well the last time. I think she’s really improved since then. Traipsing has been an unlucky filly, but she’s training well. She did not do all that well in Florida this winter. A filly like her, there aren’t any conditions. We are shortening up a little bit to a mile and 1/4, but I do think that she is a wonderful galloper.”
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Shipping in from Ireland is Shapoor Mistry’s Joseph O’Brien-trained Thundering Nights, a daughter of Night of Thunder who enters off a strong second to Broome in the Alleged Stakes (G3) over 1 1/4 miles at The Curragh. Broome went on to win the Mooresbridge Stakes (G2) and finish second in last week’s Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), backing up the form.
“She’s a really nice filly,” O’Brien said. “Night of Thunder has been a great stallion in Europe. She ran a really big race at The Curragh last out. She’s performed well on heavy surfaces and soft ground, as well, so she’s quite versatile from a ground standpoint.”
Thundering Nights will exit post 9 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Todd Pletcher-trained Repole Stable homebred Always Shopping seeks a return to form after failing as the favorite in the Sheepshead Bay but picks up the services of in-demand rider Flavien Prat from outermost post 12.
Joseph Allen homebred Civil Union returns to the course and distance of her greatest triumph, last October’s Flower Bowl, in her second race of the season. The Shug McGaughey pupil was a disappointing fifth in the Beaugay, her first run since finishing a close fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Joel Rosario rides from post 6.
Both Antoinette and Magic Attitude are eligible for the “New York Stakes Turf Bonus” which will provide $315,000 to the owner and $35,000 to the trainer of any previous winner of the Belmont Oaks, Saratoga Oaks, or Jockey Club Oaks who captures the 2021 edition of the New York, which is slated as Race 9 at 5:15 p.m. on Friday’s card.
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