Believe You Can will make her first start since winning the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) in the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 23, and although Oaks runner-up Broadway's Alibi won’t be there for a rematch, streaking Contested bears a very real threat in a race that is all about quality over quantity.
Only four entered to face Brereton C. Jones' homebred daughter of Proud Citizen, who arrived at Belmont June 17 from Kentucky. One entrant, New York-bred Wildcat's Smile, is nominated to the June 24 Bouwerie Stakes as well.
Broadway’s Alibi, who skipped the May 28 TVG Acorn Stakes (gr. I) after running second in the Kentucky Oaks by three-quarters of a length, is not among the starters. She was sent to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington by trainer Todd Pletcher earlier in the week for a physical examination after missing a pre-race move June 17 and exhibiting lackluster behavior around the barn.
Not so for Believe You Can, who breezed at Belmont June 18 in preparation for the 1 1/16-mile event. She went a sharp five furlongs in :59.77 under jockey Rosie Napravnik, registering the second-fastest move of 15 going the distance that day for trainer Larry Jones.
“She worked well the other day, Rosie was happy with her, and this morning she was feeling really good,” Jones said. “She’s put on weight since the Oaks and I’m very, very pleased with the way she’s continued to grow.”
Bred in Kentucky out of the El Prado mare El Fasto, Believe You Can already has a victory at the New York oval to her credit – the 2011 Tempted Stakes (gr. III) won as a 2-year-old going six furlongs. The frontrunning filly breaks from post one as the 8-5 second choice, while speedster Contested, the 7-5 choice on the morning line, is directly beside her in post 2.
Contested took the one-mile Acorn by five lengths over Live Oak Plantation’s Zo Impressive, building her win streak for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to four races including a 4 ¾-length romp in the seven-furlong Eight Belles (gr. III) at Churchill Downs May 4. Baffert, who trains the Ghostzapper filly for his wife, Jill (Natalie J. Baffert), had main man Jim Barnes in town to supervise Contested’s final workout before the Mother Goose, a handy six furlongs in 1:11.97 under Javier Castellano June 18.
“Well, the speed is all right next to each other,” said Baffert, who will watch the race from California. “It all depends on how she breaks, but she’s just very fast. The first time she ran, she didn’t break, but every time since she just gets out there and lays it down. We’ve been moving her up in increments to find out how far she wants to go.”
Zo Impressive, who enters off her runner-up effort in the Acorn, got the jump on her competitors in the breeze department, going out June 17 to register five furlongs for trainer Tom Albertrani in 1:02. The Hard Spun filly, who typically closes, needed someone to press Contested in the Acorn after the winner went a half-mile in :45.19 and six furlongs in 1:09.32. She made a wide move from fourth but the frontrunner had already kicked on.
“In the Acorn nobody really went with Contested,” said trainer Tom Albertrani. “I was thinking [Aubby K] might go with her, but we found ourselves up close. We wanted to take back a little. A different scenario might help us where there might be a little more pressure on the front runners.”
Zo Impressive has never finished worse than second in four starts, with a maiden score and allowance victory at Gulfstream Park this winter and a runner-up finish in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) in March.
Although Pletcher will not saddle Broadway’s Alibi, he’ll be represented by Glencrest Farm’s Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) winner Disposablepleasure, who steps into Grade I company for the first time. The daughter of Giacomo was second in the May 18 Black Eyed-Susan Stakes (gr. II), third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) in March, and fourth in the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) in February at Gulfstream Park in three starts this year. She breezed four furlongs in :49.49 June 18.
“She was unlucky,” Michael McCarthy, Pletcher’s assistant, said of the Black-Eyed Susan. “I think she could have made it a lot closer with a cleaner trip, and obviously we’re looking for a cleaner trip this weekend. She’s come out of the Black-Eyed Susan in great order and has trained forwardly. She fits here, and she’s improving.”
Completing the field is Wildcat’s Smile, never off the board in eight career starts and most recently third in the Black-Eyed Susan.
$300,000 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 5:47 p.m. ET) 3YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Believe You Can (KY), R. Napravnik, J L Jones
2. Contested (KY), J. Castellano, B Baffert
3. Disposablepleasure (KY), R.A. Dominguez, T A Pletcher
4. Wildcat’s Smile (NY), J. Lezcano, D G Galluscio
5. Zo Impressive (KY), R. Maragh, T Albertrani
All carry 121 pounds.