by Karen M. Johnson
Usually the theory is when something works, don’t tinker with it. But that is not the approach trainer Mark Hennig and owner Team Valor Stables are taking with Jazzy in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Sept. 22.
Hennig and Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, are hoping their experiment of running Jazzy on the dirt in the Gallant Bloom will open more doors for the 5-year-old mare.
Jazzy, who has raced exclusively on turf in nine career starts, is among five fillies and mares entered in the 6 1/2-furlong Gallant Bloom. Also in the field is last year’s winner, Great Intentions.
The $150,000 Gallant Bloom also drew Pussycat Doll, Princess Janie, and Cuaba.
Jazzy will be ridden by Garrett Gomez from post 3.
Hennig received Jazzy in his barn in the spring after Team Valor purchased the Argentinean-bred who had been racing in South Africa. When Jazzy made her first start for her new connections, she finished second, beaten a whisker, in a turf sprint, the Incredible Revenge Stakes at Monmouth Park July 21. That race marked her first start since May 2006, when she was third in a Group I in South Africa.
Jazzy ran back and won the Capades Stakes, a turf sprint at Saratoga, in her last start Aug. 22.
“She’s trained well on the dirt, but of course you don’t know until you try,” Hennig said Sept. 20. “You won’t know how she handles (the dirt) because she comes from off the pace and she will get dirt in her face. She is one of the better sprinters around on the turf and if she can translate that to dirt, she will be pretty strong. It could open a lot of doors for her.”
Great Intentions, trained by Mike Hushion for owner Barry K. Schwartz, is a horse for the course. At Belmont, Great Intentions has won three of four starts and was second in last year’s Floral Park Handicap (gr. III). Following the Floral Park, she won the Gallant Bloom by four lengths.
Earlier this year, Great Intentions, a daughter of Cat Thief, won the Affectionately Handicap at Aqueduct around two turns. Hushion, however, thinks sprinting might be Great Intentions’ best game.
Great Intentions enters the Gallant Bloom off of a freshening. She hasn’t run since finishing seventh in the Barbara Fritchie Breeders’ Cup (gr. II) at Laurel Park Feb. 17. Hushion entered her to run in the spring, but she broke through the gate and was subsequently scratched.
“She banged up the gate pretty good with her head and had some muscle soreness,” Hushion said.
Great Intentions has been training sharply and Hushion expects her to scoot to the lead from her rail post. “She’ll bust out of there running,” he said.
Javier Castellano, aboard for last year’s win in the Gallant Bloom, has the mount.
Pussycat Doll is the deserving 119-pound highweight, with three grade I wins under her belt: last year’s Humana Distaff Handicap and La Brea Stakes and this year’s Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita.
Pussycat Doll, trained by Bob Baffert, hasn’t been on her best game lately. She lost two starts over Polytrack at Hollywood Park and Del Mar during the summer. She was no factor in the Ballerina (gr. I) at Saratoga in her last start Aug. 26, finishing eighth.
Cuaba had a sharp work – a bullet half-mile in 47.90 -- for the Gallant Bloom at Belmont Sept. 10. A winner of three races this year, Cuaba faces her toughest challenge to date.
The lightly raced Princess Janie, the only 3-year-old in the field, won an ungraded stakes at Monmouth in her last start Aug. 29. She tackles much tougher going here.