While the focus of the racing world is on Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, Belmont Park is offering a program that includes three graded stakes May 2.
The first Saturday of the New York track's spring/summer meet will be highlighted by the $200,000 Nassau County Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on the main track, and a pair of $100,000 turf events at 1 1/16 miles -- the Beaugay (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares and the Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT).
In the five-horse Nassau County, Darley Stable’s New York-based Flashing will try for her first black-type win for trainer Tom Albertrani. Coming off back-to-back wins in allowance company going longer, the daughter of A.P. Indy will sprint for the first time since she broke her maiden at Aqueduct in November.
“We’re cutting back in distance,” Albertrani said. “She has enough speed where she can handle (it), but I think for the long term, she’ll better suited going much longer. She’s pretty versatile and she’s been training extremely well, so I believe she could be competitive here as well.”
Albertrani said he pointed the filly to the Nassau County to set her up for a possible run in the Mother Goose (gr. I) at Belmont on June 27 or the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) on July 25. With regular jockey Ramon Dominguez out of town riding Desert Party in the Kentucky Derby, Javier Castellano has the mount breaking from the rail.
Going for her second graded stakes win is Lael Stable's Frolic's Dream, who has been off since a third-place finish in the Davona Dale (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park on March 1. That effort was her first start for new trainer Barclay Tagg. Previously with Marty Wolfson, she won the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream on Jan. 30.
Frolic’s Dream has never finished out the money in six lifetime starts and is two-for-two going seven furlongs.
Coming off two impressive wins is Cam Allard’s 9-5 morning line favorite Saarlight, a daughter of Saarland conditioned by Kiaran McLaughlin. After running second in a maiden sprint over the inner track at Aqueduct in early February, the filly came back to win the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel by a length. Returning to Aqueduct for her third start, she drew off under mild urging and soundly defeated four rivals in an April 8 allowance race going 6 1/2 furlongs over the main track.
“She’s a really nice filly,” McLaughlin said. “She’s training very well, she won her last two really impressively and we’re looking forward to running her in a graded stake. We think she has a big chance and we’re excited to see how she does.”
The Nassau County is the fourth race on the program.
Tagg and Lael Stable's have a strong player in the Beaugay as well in My Princess Jess, who will renew an old rivalry with Haras Santa Maria de Araras’ Scolara. My Princess Jess won the Lake George (gr. IIT) at Saratoga and the Boiling Springs (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park last summer.
The Bill Mott-trained Scolara enters this race off a second-place finish to Quiet Meadow, who beat her by a half-length in Tampa Bay’s Turf Distaff on April 4.
Formerly trained by Dermott Weld, Jon and Sarah Kelly’s Irish-bred Carribean Sunset makes her first start for trainer Christophe Clement. The 4-year-old daughter of Danehill Dancer is a group III winner in her native country and has been training steadily at Payson Park, Fla. for her Belmont Park debut.
The Beaugay is race eight on the card.
Phipps Stables’ Dancing Forever, a lifetime winner of $910,000, is scheduled to begin his 2009 campaign in the Fort Marcy on the Widener Turf Course, which follows the Beaugay.
Trainer Shug McGaughey has big plans for the 6-year-old Rahy horse, including a defense of his victory in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan (gr. IT) on Belmont Stakes Day, June 6. The Fort Marcy was formerly run at Aqueduct.
“I would like to get him started in the Fort Marcy, but I won’t run him if it rains,” McGaughey said. “I want to get a race into him as a prep for the Manhattan. I don’t want to run him at a mile and a quarter first time off a layoff.”
After winning the Manhattan by a nose last June, Dancing Forever had three more starts without a victory, ending 2008 with a third-place finish behind Conduit and Eagle Mountain in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.
Flying Zee Stable’s Cosmonaut also makes his seasonal debut for trainer Phil Serpe. He has not raced since he was second in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) last July 12.
“We like to space his races out,” joked trainer Phil Serpe. “Seriously, I had him last winter and he won at Tampa Bay Downs. Then, I ran him back in the Makers’ Mark (gr. IT) and he had a terrible trip, even though he ran fourth. He went back to Carlos (Martin), and while we were up in Saratoga he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right-front ankle. We gave him four months off, brought him to Palm Meadows in Florida for the winter, and here we are.”
Peter Vegso’s Silver Tree ran fourth as the favorite in the Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Down on April 4 to start his year, but was beaten less than two lengths. Trained by Mott, the 9-year-old son of Hennessy won the Fort Marcy at Aqueduct last year over Operation Red Dawn.
Dion A. Recachina’s Operation Red Dawn came back to win his next start after the Fort Marcy last year for Clement, but has lost four starts since, three of which were third-place finishes in graded stakes races.
Breaking from the rail is Godolphin Stable’s Tam Lin, winner of Belmont's Kelso Handicap (gr. IIIT) over soft going last September. The 6-year-old Selkirk gelding spent the winter in Dubai.
$200,000 Nassau County Stakes (gr. III, Race 4, 2:36 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Flashing (KY), Javier Castellano, 118, 2/1
2. Frolic's Dream (FL), Rajiv Maragh, 122, 5/2
3. Saarlight (KY), Raymundo D. Fuentes, 118, 9/5
4. Haley's Lolipop (MD), Cornelio H. Velasquez, 116, 15/1
5. Maryville (KY), Jose Lezcano, 116, 6/1
$100,000 Beaugay Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:44 p.m.), Fillies & mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
1. Borrowing Base (NY), Michael J. Luzzi, 115, 20/1
2. Are We Dreamin (FL), Richard Migliore, 115, 20/1
3. Dyna's Lassie (KY), Eddie Castro, 115, 8/1
4. My Princess Jess (FL), 117, 5/2
5. Scolara (FL), Jose Lezcano, 115, 4/1
6. Social Queen (KY), Javier Castellano, 117, 12/1
7. Sunshine for Life (KY), Channing Hill, 117, 6/1
8. Carribean Sunset (IRE), Rajiv Maragh, 117, 3/1
9. Follow My Dream (NY), Jorge F. Chavez, 115, 20/1
Main Track Only
10. By the Light (NY), no rider, 122, 8/5
$100,000 Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:17 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
1. Tam Lin (GB), Javier Castellano, 118, 5/2
2. Operation Red Dawn (KY), Rajiv Maragh, 116, 8/1
3. Silver Tree (FL), Eddie Castro, 118, 6/1
4. Museeb (KY), Richard Migliore, 116, 12/1
5. Cosmonaut (KY), Jose Lezcano, 118, 7/2
6. Dancing Forever (KY), Cornelio H. Velasquez, 118, 2/1
7. Interpatation (KY), Jose L. Espinoza, 116, 15/1
Main Track Only
8. Mor Chances (NY), Richard Migliore, 123, 9/5
9. Formal King (FL), Jorge F. Chavez, 116, 3/1