May 20, 2022
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Pletcher stars on the work tab for Belmont Stakes Racing Festival

by NYRA Press Office

  • Pletcher stars on the work tab for Belmont Stakes Racing Festival
  • Highland Chief to target G1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan after Man o’ War triumph
  • G1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap a possibility for Aloha West
  • Belmont Park Week 5 stakes probables

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher sent a number of his stars to breeze over the dirt training track Friday in preparation for engagements at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, including Mo Donegal for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

The three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which runs from Thursday, June 9 through Saturday, June 11, 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.

In addition to the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11, that day’s card will include three Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers: the one-mile Grade 1, $1 million Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan Handicap for 3-year-olds and up [Dirt Mile]; the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps for older fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going 1 1/16 miles on the main track [Distaff]; and the Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs on turf [Turf Sprint].

The blockbuster Belmont Stakes Day card will also feature the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/4 miles on turf; the Grade 1, $500,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies going one mile; the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at one mile on the turf; the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun in a seven-furlong sprint over Big Sandy for 3-year-olds; and the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational, a 1 1/2-mile test for 4-year-olds and up.

Tickets for the 2022 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival are available at

Joining Mo Donegal on the tab were Nest [Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets], Wit [Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun], Malathaat[Grade 1 Ogden Phipps], Fearless [Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational] and First Constitution [Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational].

Donegal Racing and Repole Stable's Mo Donegal enjoyed a strong campaign at Aqueduct Racetrack, winning the Grade 2 Remsen in December and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino in April.

The late-running Uncle Mo colt was away slow from the inside post last out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, rallying from 17 lengths off the pace to finish fifth, defeated 3 3/4-lengths by upset winner Rich Strike.

Mo Donegal breezed a half-mile in 50.02 Friday in company with Grade 1 Ashland winner Nest, who is possible to take on the boys in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

"It was a good maintenance breeze,” said Pletcher’s New York-based assistant Byron Hughes. “They both were moving well and galloped out well. They were on even terms throughout and we were happy with the breeze."

Owned by Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House, Nest captured the Grade 2 Demoiselle in December at the Big A to launch a win streak that included scores in the Suncoast in February at Tampa Bay Downs ahead of her 8 1/4-length coup in the Ashland at Keeneland. The Curlin filly closed to complete the exacta last out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, finishing two lengths back of Secret Oath.

Shadwell Stable's 2021 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat worked five-eighths in 1:01.58 in company with Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable's multiple graded-stakes winner Wit.

“Both are good breeze horses and made a good matchup,” Hughes said. “They went head-and-head throughout in 1:01 and change and had a good, solid gallop out.”

Malathaat, a regally-bred daughter of Curlin out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, captured the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs last year in a memorable sophomore campaign completed by a close third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff in November at Del Mar.

The talented bay posted a three-quarter length score in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare in April at Keeneland in her seasonal debut and is set to lead a talented field of older fillies and mares in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps expected to include Letruska, the reigning Champion Older Dirt Female.

“She’s always been a big filly and has held her weight well. She’s always been professional in the mornings and I thought this was a very professional move, similar to what I saw from her last year,” Hughes said.

Wit, by Practical Joke, made two graded starts last summer at Saratoga, romping to an eight-length score in the Grade 3 Sanford in July ahead of a troubled runner-up effort to Gunite in the Grade 1 Hopeful in September. The dark bay colt completed his juvenile campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont and recently won his seasonal debut, taking the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bay Shore by a nose on April 9 at Aqueduct.

“The Bay Shore was a big effort from him. He really dug in there and we were happy with that effort,” Hughes said. “He bounced out of it in really good form and has put in some really solid works. We’re really happy with where he is right now.”

Repole Stable's multiple graded-stakes winner Fearless worked a half-mile in 49.55 in company with Don Alberto Stable, WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' multiple stakes winner First Constitution in preparation for the Brooklyn.

“It was a maintenance half-mile and both were moving well,” Hughes said. “They both gave us everything we wanted to see from them.”

Fearless, a 6-year-old gelded son of Ghostzapper, captured the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile and Grade 3 Harlan's Holiday last year at the Hallandale Beach oval. He added the nine-furlong Grade 3 Ghostzapper to his ledger on April 2 at Gulfstream ahead of a runner-up effort last out in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 23.

“He’s a big, scopey horse and acts like he would run all day, so I would imagine the distance would not be an issue for him based on what we’ve been seeing,” Hughes said.

First Constitution, a 5-year-old Chilean-bred son of Constitution, captured his first stateside win in January at the Big A, romping to a 6 3/4-length score in the nine-furlong Jazil. He followed with a third-place finish in the Excelsior in April at Aqueduct ahead of a four-length score over Portos last out in the 11-furlong Flat Out on May 6 at Belmont.

CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm's Americanrevolution has breezed twice over the Belmont dirt training track in preparation for his seasonal debut, including a five-eighths breeze in 1:01.02 on May 16.

“He’s doing really well. He came in from WinStar in great shape and has had a couple breezes here now,” Hughes said. “He continues to impress us and we’re happy with where he is off the layoff.”

The New York-bred Constitution colt defeated open company in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets last out in December at the Big A to cap a season that included scores against fellow state-breds in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, the Albany at Saratoga and the Empire Classic at Belmont.

The $275,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale purchase is targeting the $200,000 Commentator, a one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up on the May 30 Big Apple Showcase Day card at Belmont.


Highland Chief to target G1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan after Man o’ War triumph

Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s Irish homebred Highland Chiefreturned to Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland on Sunday after upsetting Saturday’s Grade 1 Man o’ War by one length at Belmont Park. The son of Gleneagles earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Trainer Graham Motion, who also sent out Madaket Stables’ Easter to finish fourth in the Man o’ War, said both horses are receiving some rest and relaxation after their efforts.

“Highland Chief came back well and was turned out in a paddock,” Motion said. “He and Easter are in paddocks right next to each other.”

Highland Chief stalked a half-length from the pace set by Abaan in the 1 3/8-mile race over the firm course and took a one-length advantage at the stretch call. He continued to respond under urging from Trevor McCarthy and maintained his length advantage at the wire over multiple Grade 1-winner Gufo to stop the clock in a final time of 2:17.04. Highland Chief was the longest shot on the board at 19-1 in the field of five.

The Man o’ War was the first graded stakes victory for Highland Chief, who was group-placed three times in England. Motion believes the effort warrants another start in top company and will now point the bay to the 1 1/4-mile Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan on June 11, one of eight Grade 1 races on the lucrative Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets card.

“I think we’ll point to the Manhattan if he’s doing well,” Motion said. “The timing is right and I don’t have a concern whatsoever about the mile and a quarter for him. I think he’s pretty tactical and I think we’re certainly going to keep him over here and not consider taking him over to England anytime soon. It had been mentioned to me before the race, but after we all got together, I think we’ll keep him for an American campaign.

“He’ll be at Fair Hill until the race,” Motion added. “He’s kind of a nervous horse and I think he benefits from the turnout, so that would be my plan.”

Motion said Easter and Highland Chief will go their separate ways as Easter will look to regroup in allowance company.

“I’ll point Easter for a first-level allowance,” Motion said. “I’d like to get him in a spot where he can win and be one of the favorites.”


G1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap a possibility for Aloha West

Trainer Wayne Catalano expressed interest in a trip to New York with reigning Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West, eyeing a possible start in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 11 at Belmont Park.

Owned by Aron Wellman’s Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, the Maryland-bred son of Hard Spun made his 5-year-old debut when third in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs on the May 7 Kentucky Derby undercard. Aloha West broke from the rail and maintained close inside position down the backstretch as Jackie’s Warrior led the field gate-to-wire. With Jackie’s Warrior well clear in the stretch drive, Aloha West battled with Reinvestment Risk and just missed second by one length.

“He went on the dead rail and got pushed a little early,” Catalano said. “It was a tough race. The only horse that went up the rail the last eighth of the mile was the Derby winner [Rich Strike]. From what I saw, everyone else was on the middle of the racetrack.”

The Met Mile is expected to come up tough with undefeated Grade 1-winner Flightline targeting the prestigious stallion-making race. Speaker’s Corner, who registered a 114 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct, also is targeting the Met Mile.

Prior to his Breeders’ Cup Sprint score in November, Aloha West was a two-time allowance optional claiming winner at Saratoga, where Catalano said he plans on sending a handful of horses for the upcoming 2022 meet. Aloha West has posted a 10-5-2-1 record with earnings in excess of $1.3 million.


Belmont Park Week 5 stakes probables

Saturday, May 28

G3 Soaring Softly

Probable: Breeze Easy (Christophe Clement), Champagne Poetry (Chad Summers), Chardy Party (Wesley Ward), Derrynane (Clement), Lost My Sock (Derek Ryan), Ouraika (Graham Motion), Sail By (Leah Gyarmati), Skims (Shug McGaughey), Wonka (Bill Mott)

Sunday, May 29

$100K Paradise Creek

Probable: Carpe’s Dream (Gregory DiPrima), Chanceux (Todd Pletcher), Maritime Wings (Joseph O’Brien)

Possible: Grooms All Bizness (Jorge Duarte, Jr.)

Monday, May 30 - Big Apple Showcase Day

$200K Commentator (NYB)

Probable: Americanrevolution (Pletcher), Anejo (Jack Sisterson), Bankit (Asmussen), Ny Traffic (Saffie Joseph, Jr.)

$200K Critical Eye (NYB)

Probable: Bank Sting (John Terranova), Brattle House (Mott), Love and Love (Joseph Brocklebank), Maiden Beauty (Robert Falcone, Jr.), Mashnee Girl (Mark Hennig), Secret Love (John Kimmel), Vienna Code (Andrew Williams)

$125K Mount Vernon (NYB)

Probable: Classic Lady (Clement), Giacosa (H. James Bond), She’s the One (Clement)

$125K Mike Lee (NYB)

Probable: Agility (Jorge Abreu), Hot Rod Rumble (Steve Asmussen), Kazmike (Dimitrios Synnefias), Rotknee (Mike Maker), Who Hoo That’s Me (Abreu)

Possible: Juggler (Juan Vasquez)

$125K Bouwerie (NYB)

Probable: Adversity (Mark Casse) Bank On Anna (Philip Serpe), Captainsdaughter (Russell Cash), Kisses for Emily (Louis Linder, Jr.), Sterling Silver (Tom Albertrani), Yo Cuz (Mott)

$125K Kingston (NYB)

Probable: Advanced Strategy (Philip Antonacci), City Man (Clement), Cross Border (Maker), It’s a Gamble (Kelly Breen), Sanctuary City (James Ferraro), Somelikeithotbrown (Maker), Step Dancer (Barclay Tagg), Therapist (Clement)

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