Mercedes Stables Seattle Smooth will try for her fourth straight stakes victory May 16 in the $150,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares going a mile on Belmont Park’s main track. The Quiet American filly will face five rivals.
Last August, Seattle Smooth won the Go for Wand at Delaware Park; the following month she scored in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park; and last month she ran away with the Bed o’ Roses Handicap (gr. II), winning by more than five lengths at Aqueduct.
The only question remaining for trainer Tony Dutrow is whether she’ll tackle the main oval at Belmont with the same zeal.
“`Big Sandy’ is not for everyone,” Dutrow said of the 1 1/2-mile layout of the main track. “But she handled Saratoga well, she handled Aqueduct well, she handled Delaware and Philadelphia well. I’ve been very happy with her so far, I just hope she likes it.”
Dutrow doesn’t expect the short field will hinder his filly.
“She went seven-eighths last time in a short field,” Dutrow said of Seattle Smooth, who will carry top weight of 120 pounds. “I was taking a ‘Let’s just see how this goes,’ approach and she was in striking position the entire race. With a short field going a little longer, I don’t feel it’s an issue.”
Despite her easy victory in the Bed o’ Roses, Dutrow felt Seattle Smooth was not at her best in the race, her first start as a 4-year-old on the heels of a seven-month layoff. Going into the Shuvee, he says she’s been training “very, very well,” and while cautiously optimistic, he’s not getting too far ahead of himself.
“The longer you’ve been around, you know how difficult it is to win a race, any race, but we feel our filly is going into it good and healthy and we’re looking forward to running her at Belmont,” Dutrow said.
Top New York rider Ramon Dominguez will have the call on Seattle Smooth, who was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Oscar Benavides and Darley, and is out of the Seattle Song mare Our Seattle Star.
D. Wayne Lukas, one of three Hall of Fame trainers represented in the Shuvee, will saddle Briland Farms’ Color Me Up, a 4-year-old daughter of Aptitude seeking her first victory since January. In four starts this year, all at Oaklawn Park, Color Me Up was third in an overnight stakes, seventh in the Azeri (gr. III) and fifth in the April 4 Apple Blossom (gr. I).
Coming out of Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens’ barn is Fernando Abreu’s Granted Tiger, a 4-year-old Tiger Ridge filly making her stakes debut. In three previous appearances at Belmont Park, she has a victory and a second, both on the turf. In her lone start on the dirt here, she was fifth in an allowance last May.
Nick Zito, who was ushered into the Hall of Fame in 2005, saddles Tomisue Hilbert’s Striking Tomisue, who was fifth in last year’s Shuvee to Cowgirls Don't Cry after racing close up to the pace. The daughter of Smart Strike most recently finished fifth in the March 29 Rampart (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.
Not a Hall of Famer yet, but almost certain to become one, trainer Todd Pletcher sends Darley Stable’s Sea Chanter out in only her second start on dirt. Winner of the Miesque (gr. IIIT) on Hollywood Park’s turf course last year, Sea Chanter was second to One Caroline in the Rampart in her main track debut.
Rounding out the field is C.P. Racing Stables’ Are We Dreamin, runner-up in the Bed o’ Roses to Seattle Smooth. In her most recent start, the daughter of Yes It's True was a puzzling ninth to My Princess Jess May 2 in the Beaugay (gr. III).
“I don’t know what the problem was last time,” said trainer Randi Persaud. “She’s been training very well, and she does better in a small field.”