ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Todd Pletcher will be well represented in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps, entering a formidable duo in Curalina and Stopchargingmaria to top an exceptionally competitive 48th edition on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Curalina will attempt to duplicate a dominant effort in the Grade 1 La Troienne on May 6 at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old Curlin filly was imposing in her season opener on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, drawing clear by 7 ½ lengths in her first start since finishing third to Stopchargingmaria in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on October 30.
“I thought it was a big return effort and, visually, you could argue that it’s probably her most impressive,” said Pletcher. “She’s trained very well since then and I’m very happy with her. She’s trained like she’s going to run a really good race. Obviously, in this particular race, it’s going to take a really good effort from her to win it.”
As a 3-year-old, Curalina won four of her seven starts, including graded stakes victories in the Grade 1 Acorn on last year’s Belmont Stakes undercard and the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks via disqualification at Saratoga Race Course.
Breaking from post 5, Curalina will have the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Curalina will be joined by her multiple graded stakes-winning Stopchargingmaria, ridden by Javier Castellano from post 2, for Town and Country Racing. A graded stakes winner at 2, 3, and 4, Stopchargingmaria fell a neck short of Sheer Drama in her 2016 debut in the Grade 1 Madison in April at Keeneland, a race the Tale of the Cat mare used as a launch pad one year earlier for her 2015 campaign that included three graded stakes wins, culminating in a game neck victory in the Distaff.
“It seemed to work pretty well last year,” Pletcher said. “We thought she ran a really good race off the layoff. She had a tough trip and just missed. She’s trained really well and she seems to run well fresh.”
The one-turn, 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff this fall, will also feature a rematch between Cavorting and Carrumba, one-two finishers of the Grade 2 Ruffian on May 14.
Taking her first five career victories at distances from six to seven furlongs, Stonestreet Stable’s Cavorting will try to shake her sprint specialist reputation in her first attempt past eight furlongs following her rousing five-length score in the one-mile Ruffian. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been waiting for another opportunity to stretch her out since the filly’s juvenile year.
“We thought that with her pedigree and looking at her, she should get further,” said McLaughlin. “Her third start as a 2-year-old was a mile [in the 2014 Grade 1 Frizette]. That day, the track was wet, sloppy. She was down on the inside and she just didn’t go well that day.
“It was really nice that she got a mile and did it the right way,” he added. “The nice thing, at least some of the time, the one turn is really important for a horse that’s coming from seven-eighths. It makes it like an extended sprint. When you start going 1 1/16 miles around two turns, it could be different. But since we’ll have that long run down the backside and plenty of pace in front of us, we just need to settle the first part.”
Cavorting will leave from post 4 with Florent Geroux aboard for the first time.
Phipps Stable’s homebred Carrumba came back from her season-opening victory in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 3 Top Flight at Aqueduct on April 10, cutting back in distance for the Ruffian and finishing five lengths behind the victor.
“We’re going to have to step it up a little bit; it’s a tough race but we’re looking forward to seeing where we stand,” McGaughey said. “In her last race, Cavorting ran great. I don’t quite understand why we weren’t more competitive a little bit farther. Maybe she reacted off her first race a little bit. But I do think she’s trained awfully well since then.”
Carrumba will break from the rail with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Trained by Dallas Stewart, Forever Unbridled will bring a three-race winning streak into the Phipps for owner-breeder Charles Fipke. Forever Unbridled, a full sister to graded stakes winner Unbridled Forever, won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom by 2 ¼ lengths at Oaklawn Park in April, her second stakes victory of the year and third in a row dating back to the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct on November 28.
Joel Rosario has been given the call aboard Forever Unbridled. The pair will break from post 6.
Rounding out the field for the Ogden Phipps are Harold Queen’s multiple Grade 1-winning homebred Sheer Drama, looking to rebound from her third-place finish behind Curalina in the La Troienne for trainer David Fawkes, one month after posting a hard-fought neck victory in the Madison over Stopchargingmaria; and Desert Valley for Looch Racing Stable, making her second start of the year since transferring to trainer Anthony Rini.