Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will be one of perhaps 100,000 people attending Pimlico Racecourse Saturday for the 130th Preakness (gr. I), but sometime around 4:40 p.m., he will sneak away from the festivities to watch his mare Saintliness race in the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
McLaughlin also trains Preakness starter Closing Argument, who fell a half-length short of beating Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at odds of 71-1. Coincidentally, Saintliness is by Holy Bull
, the same sire as Closing Argument's rival Giacomo.
Saintliness drew the rail in the five-horse Shuvee under jockey Richard Migliore and will carry 116 pounds. A 5-year-old mare, Saintliness will be making her Belmont debut in the Shuvee. In fact, this is her first race outside of Aqueduct and her first start in a one-turn route.
"This filly is training fabulous," said McLaughlin from Maryland on Thursday morning. "I think (a one-turn route) might actually benefit her. She's got a high cruising speed and I'm hopeful everything will work out for us."
Although Saintliness has been close to perfect, she suffered her lone defeat last time out in the March 25 Next Move Handicap (gr. III). She ran well in the Next Move, losing by only a length, but Shuvee rival Daydreaming had her number in deep stretch and wore her down late. Naturally, McLaughlin says he is looking forward to the rematch.
"I have a lot of respect for Daydreaming and her trainer Shug McGaughey, but hopefully with my filly's speed we might be able to get the jump on her this time," he said. "I also respect Society Selection, but she's coming off a long layoff and she might not be as good as she was last year."
Prior to running in the Next Move, Saintliness had won her maiden, four allowance races and the Affectionately Handicap in mid-January. Although her speed will put her in the game early, Saintliness isn't a need-the-lead type horse. She will be prominent throughout, always a plus in a compact field.
Society Selection is the most accomplished horse in the Shuvee lineup, having won the Frizette (gr. I) in 2003 and Saratoga's Test and Alabama (both gr. I) last summer.
Trained by Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, Society Selection will try to turn things around in the Shuvee. Despite winning two Grade I races s and nearly $930,000 last season, Society Selection ended the year on a sour note, finishing ninth of 11 in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). She wasn't any better in her first and only start of 2005, running last of seven in Gulfstream's Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. II) on Feb. 19.
"She stumbled badly and hurt her leg coming out of the gate," Jerkens said. "We had to send her to the hospital after the race. She seems to be doing good. Hopefully she runs well."
Jerkens said the leg injury did not require surgery. And on Wednesday morning, Society Selections worked five furlongs over Belmont's main track handily in a swift :58 3/5.
Jerkens, a three-time winner of the Shuvee, has tabbed jockey Eibar Coa to ride Society Selection. In her last start at Belmont, Society Selection finished second to Sightseek in the 2004 Beldame (gr. I).
Daydreaming is the 119-pound high weight for McGaughey, a four-time winner of the Shuvee. Daydreaming won an allowance race by nine lengths over this course last May and nearly upset Stellar Jayne in last September's Gazelle (gr. I), running second. A daughter of A.P. Indy
, Daydreaming notched the second stakes win of her career when taking the Next Move over Saintliness.
McGaughey won last year's Shuvee with Storm Flag Flying, who won a furious stretch duel with Passing Shot and Roar Emotion.$200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. II), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 mile
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Saintliness, Kiaran McLaughlin, Richard Migliore, 116
2. Bohemian Lady, Todd Pletcher, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 114
3. Daydreaming, Shug McGaughey, Javier Castellano, 119
4. Traci Girl, Bruce Levine, Mike Luzzi, 113
5. Society Selection, Allen Jerkens, Eibar Coa, 118