Sheila and Fred Mead's Classic Neel snapped to life earlier this year after trainer Kiaran McLaughlin switched her to the turf. Now the $250,000 El Corredor filly is one of the key contenders in Saturday's $100,000-added Sands Point (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park.
After two poor starts to begin her career on dirt, McLaughlin -- in somewhat of a desperation move -- tried the turf on Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park. She delivered a 60-1 upset in breaking her maiden that day and came back to take down an entry-level allowance later in the meet. Classic Neel then came within a neck of victory in Keeneland’s Appalachian.
In the Sands Point for 3-year-old fillies, she takes on six rivals going nine furlongs on grass. Three others have been entered for the main track only.
“I’m glad she’s taken to the turf because she trained well, but ran terrible on the dirt,” McLaughlin said.
Offspring of El Corredor are not considered especially dangerous on the turf and Classic Neel’s female side does not scream grass, either.
“I don’t know that there are a whole lot of reasons behind her doing so well on the turf,” McLaughlin said, referring to her breeding. “I don’t know where the turf came from.”
After her strong second in the Appalachian, where Classic Neel lost a photo to Audacious Chloe, she figures to draw quite a bit of action Saturday.
“She stumbled leaving the gate in the Appalachian and that might have cost her the race,” McLaughlin said.
Virginia Kraft Payson’s Rutherienne finished fourth in the Appalachian, 1 1/4 lengths behind Classic Neel. That was the Pulpit filly’s first start of 2007 after a perfect 2-for-2 juvenile campaign.
“The pace was slow in the race at Keeneland and she was far back,” trainer Christophe Clement said of Rutherienne. “She had a lot to do, but she finished well. She got beat, but she ran a good race.”
Rutherienne won the May 12 Sugar Plum Time, an overnight stakes at Belmont as 3-5 favorite.
WinStar Farm’s Sharp Susan comes into the Sands Point fresh for trainer Bill Mott. She has not run since winning the March 25 Herecomesthebride (gr. IIIT) in gate-to-wire fashion at Gulfstream. The versatile daughter of Touch Gold owns two other turf victories in which she rallied from mid-pack.
$100,000 Sands Point Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse Weight, Jockey
1. Sharp Susan (KY), 121, Cornelio H. Velasquez
2. Survived (KY), 117, Jean-Luc Samyn
3. Classic Neel (KY), 117, Alan Garcia
4. Rutherienne (KY), 121, Garrett K. Gomez
5. Bit of Whimsy (KY), 115, Edgar S. Prado
6. Tears I Cry (KY), 115, Javier Castellano
7. Sister Desiree (KY), 115, Channing Hill
-- Main Track Only --
8. Olivine (KY), 123, (No Rider)
9. Bold Assurance (KY), 118, (No Rider)
10. Officer in Pursuit (KY), 123, (No Rider)