Trainer Larry Jones will offer a stiff one-two punch in the $400,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) when he sends out grade I winners Joyful Victory and Believe You Can for the May 27 event at Belmont Park.
"There's just really not a lot of spots, and both horses deserve to run after the big pot," Jones said. "We couldn't play favorites, both owners wanted to run, so here we are."
Fox Hill Farms' Joyful Victory is the 7-5 favorite on the morning line and carries high weight of 120 pounds from the rail in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps. Brereton Jones' homebred 2012 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Believe You Can was assigned 119 and is the 4-1 third choice from the outside post in a field of six older fillies and mares.
The Ogden Phipps is scheduled as race 8 of 11 on Belmont's Memorial Day card, with an approximate post time of 4:45 p.m. EDT.
"They're good to go in posts 1 and 6, so at least they won't be looking at each other the whole way," Jones said. "There should be someone else in the mix."
Joyful Victory, a 5-year-old daughter of Tapit
, comes into the Ogden Phipps off a freshening following her March 16 Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) score. It has been 11 starts and two years since she finished out of the top three, when she was fourth as a sophomore in the 2011 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). The gray mare has yet to collect a win at Belmont but has fared well there, running third in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) in 2010 and second in the Mother Goose (gr. I) in 2011.
Second or third in five graded stakes appearances in 2012, Joyful Victory captured the Houston Ladies Classic this January before her first grade I score in the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita Park
. Rosie Napravnik, who had ridden Believe You Can in her last eight starts, has the call aboard Joyful Victory, who she rode to victory in both 2013 stakes outings. John Velazquez will ride Believe You Can.
"A lot will depend on the break and the post positions, both for us and for everyone else," Jones said. "I think I have two of the best riders in the country. They'll have to do their jobs, and I'll let them do their jobs."
The top-class field for the Ogden Phipps is rounded out by Cresran's homebred Tiz Miz Sue
, Darley Stable's homebred Centring
, and a pair of Todd Pletcher trainees—La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) winner Authenticity
for Padua Stables and Disposablepleasure
for Glencrest Farm.
Believe You Can, by Proud Citizen
, has faced the latter two before. She was third by 4 3/4 lengths after a poor start in the La Troienne won by Authenticity, who took it by a head over Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) victress On Fire Baby
"It wasn't (the poor start) that hurt her," Jones explained of Believe You Can. "She can sit right off the lead, but they were going so slowly up front. She needs to be able to use her cruising speed, and she was using as much of her energy going that slowly as she was if she would have been cruising out there."
Before that loss, Believe You Can kicked off the season with a pair of victories in the March 9 New Orleans Ladies Stakes and the Feb. 2 Tiffany Lass Stakes, both at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
. She holds one victory over the Belmont oval—the 2011 Tempted Stakes (gr. III) sprinting six furlongs, which she won by 2 1/2 lengths. Her only other Belmont start resulted in a third in the 2011 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) won by Zo Impressive
Authenticity, 3-1 second choice on the morning line, earned her first graded stakes score in the La Troienne. The 6-year-old Quiet American
mare came into that race off a runner-up finish 4 1/2 lengths behind stablemate Ciao Bella
in her stakes debut, the March 30 Rampart Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park
. She spent 2012 on the sidelines after three starts in 2011, but has reeled off four solid starts since then with two wins, a second, and a third. She carries 118, including Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, from the 3 hole.
"She's had a really good three weeks since the La Troienne," said Pletcher. "Grade I opportunities don't present themselves often and she's doing well, so I think we're going to go ahead and take a shot."
Disposablepleasure wired an optional claimer March 17 at Gulfstream prior to victory in the April 20 Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne after a winless 3-year-old season that included two runner-up finishes from seven graded stakes starts.
"I don't know if she's matured, if the break helped her, (or) if she's just kind of put it all together as a 4-year-old," Pletcher said of the 4-year-old Giacomo filly. "She ran some quality races at 2 and 3, but hopefully this is a sign that she's become more consistent. She's had a couple of good races at Belmont, so we're hoping Monday she'll have another one."
Tiz Miz Sue, winner of consecutive Azeri Stakes (gr. III) renewals at Oaklawn Park
, was a late-closing second to On Fire Baby by half a length in the Apple Blossom last time out. The 6-year-old daughter of Tiznow
, trained by Steve Hobby, encountered traffic trouble and wheeled out five wide entering the stretch but could not get up in time. She runs at Belmont for the first time under regular rider Joe Rocco Jr. from the 2 hole with a 117-pound impost.
Centring, a 5-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy who was most recently second to Disposablepleasure for trainer Tom Albertrani in that March 17 race at Gulfstream, completes the lineup.
$400,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I, Race 8, approximate post 4:45 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares 3YOs & Up, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Joyful Victory (ON), R. Napravnik, 120, J L Jones, 7-5
2. Tiz Miz Sue (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 117, S Hobby, 5-1
3. Authenticity (KY), M.E. Smith, 118, T A Pletcher, 3-1
4. Centring (KY), J. Rosario, 113, T Albertrani, 20-1
5. Disposablepleasure (KY), J. Castellano, 117, T A Pletcher, 6-1
6. Believe You Can (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 119, J L Jones, 4-1