After a good rest following an uncharacteristic run in the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Rachel's Valentina is coming back to the races.
Stonestreet Stables' homebred Bernardini filly, a daughter of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, takes on six rivals in the $300,000 Mother Goose (gr. I) July 2 at Belmont Park. She finished off the board for the first time in her life with a sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks—after missing the 1 1/16-mile Ashland (gr. I) at Keeneland April 9 by a neck to 30-1 upsetter Weep No More.
In the Mother Goose, Rachel's Valentina backs up to the 1 1/16-mile distance again, over which she ran second last fall to Songbird in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), also at Keeneland. Her two victories from five starts came at Saratoga Race Course last summer, where she broke her maiden going six furlongs en route to a win in the seven-furlong Spinaway (gr. I).
Rachel's Valentina drew post 6 and will have Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons as one of three contenders for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Pletcher also sends out King of Prussia Stable's Mo d'Amour, who finished fifth in the Kentucky Oaks and failed to menace on turf last time out with an eighth in the June 5 Wonder Again Stakes at Belmont. He has Off the Tracks as well, turning back from her runner-up finish to Carina Mia in the June 11 Acorn (gr. I) for Newtown Anner Stud and J Stables.
Trainer Chad Brown will be represented by third-place Kentucky Oaks finisher Lewis Bay, also making her return to the races. Prior to the Oaks, the consistent Alpha Delta Stable homebred never finished worse than second in five starts, including a pair of grade II victories at Aqueduct Racetrack—the Demoiselle last fall and the Gazelle April 9—along with a runner-up finish to Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia in the Davona Dale (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in February.
Lewis Bay will break from post 5 with regular jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons.
Up Hill Stable and Head of Plains Partner's undefeated Lightstream could prove formidable, stretching out for the first time and putting her three-race win streak on the line with a return to dirt.
"This will be a good test for her, (to see) whether she fits with these sorts of horses in a grade I and if she handles the distance, which I'm confident she will," trainer Brian Lynch said.
Winner of the Soaring Softly May 21, her third straight win at seven furlongs and first on the turf, Lightstream has been a star pupil thus far as she prepares to make the jump to the highest ranks, where she will be ridden by Joel Rosario for the first time. The pair will leave from the outside.
"She had a nice breeze over the weekend to set her up for the race. Rosario's been working her and everything seems like he's happy and she's happy," Lynch said. "I think she'll get the mile and sixteenth. She's very rideable and she's got that turn of foot."
The lightly raced Harlan's Holiday filly debuted at Gulfstream Park in March with a 2 1/4-length score, and graduated in the stakes ranks in her next start, diving through an opening along the rail in the stretch to post a three-quarter-length victory in the April 17 Beaumont (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland.
In the Soaring Softly, Lightstream missed the break but regrouped with a wide chasing trip to prevail by a half-length.
"She's been a great overachiever. Any kind of hiccup she's had—whether she breaks a bit slow, or gets herself into some trouble—she's been able to overcome everything so far," Lynch said. "We're looking forward to running her."
Rounding out the field for the Mother Goose are Mom's On Strike, fifth last time out in the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) for XYZ Racing and trainer Joe Sharp; and Grupo Seven C's recent maiden winner Linda Mimi from the barn of Gustavo Delgado.
Belmont Park, Saturday, July 02, 2016, Race 9
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Linda Mimi (KY) Jose Lezcano 121 Gustavo Delgado 30/1 2 2Off the Tracks (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 121 Todd A. Pletcher 3/1 3 3Mom's On Strike (FL) Kendrick Carmouche 121 Joe Sharp 20/1 4 4Mo d'Amour (KY) Manuel Franco 121 Todd A. Pletcher 12/1 5 5Lewis Bay (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 121 Chad C. Brown 2/1 6 6Rachel's Valentina (KY) John R. Velazquez 121 Todd A. Pletcher 9/5 7 7Lightstream (KY) Joel Rosario 121 Brian A. Lynch 5/1