Speedy Hilda's Passion, a two-time graded stakes winner at Gulfstream Park this year, makes her Belmont Park debut as the heavy favorite for the $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) June 4.
Starlight Partners' 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Canadian Frontier is coming off a runner-up finish to Sassy Image in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff (gr. I) on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs May 7. She'll be shortening up a bit to 6 1/2 panels for the Vagrancy, which is set to go off at 5:17 p.m. EDT as the ninth race on the Belmont program. Seven older fillies and mares are entered.
Hilda's Passion registered impressive front-running victories earlier this year in both the Hurricane Bertie (gr. III) and Inside Information (gr. II) stakes at Gulfstream for trainer Todd Pletcher. Victorious in last fall's Raven Run Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland as well, she's seeking her fifth stakes win in the Vagrancy. The bay filly has won four of seven starts with two seconds since arriving in Pletcher's barn last spring.
“She’s run some really good races this year,” Pletcher said. “The filly that beat her last time came back to win a stake (grade III Wining Colors at Churchill May 30). She’s been training well and has been a consistent performer for us since we got her.”
Sent off as the 3-5 choice in the Humana Distaff, Hilda's Passion was in her familiar position in front but could not shake Vagrancy rival Tidal Pool through quick fractions (:22.29, :44.68). Softened up for the stretch drive, she was no match for the fast-closing Sassy Image and was beaten by three lengths.
Javier Castellano is back aboard the 3-5 morning-line favorite leaving from post 2.
“I am concerned about the post but I am hopeful she will overcome it,” said Pletcher. “She seems to be the main speed in the race, although Tidal Pool may have something to say.”
Tidal Pool, trained by Wayne Lukas, finished fourth in the Humana Distaff and will be seeking her first graded stakes win in the Vagrancy. The 4-year-old Yankee Gentleman filly captured the Red Bud Stakes for owner Westrock Stables at Oaklawn Park April 13. She finished third behind the victorious Blind Luck in the 2010 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and also placed in the Fantasy (gr. II) and Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) stakes last season.
John Velazquez rides Tidal Pool, 6-1 on the morning line, from post 5.
Second choice on the morning line is Phipps Stable homebred Streaker (4-1), making her second start of the year for Shug McGaughey. The 4-year-old daughter of Forest Wildcat returned from an 11-month layoff to win a six-furlong optional claiming allowance race at Belmont May 13. She has won two of her three starts over the track.
“She had some bumps and bruises, nothing major,” said McGaughey of the layoff. “We just gave her plenty of time. This is a big step for her, but she’s doing well enough to warrant it.”
Jose Lezcano rides the bay filly, a four-time winner in five lifetime starts, from the outside.
The Christophe Clement-trained Erin Rose, pegged at 8-1 for her stakes debut, has won both of her six-furlong optional claiming starts for Waterford Stable this year. Most recently, the she tallied by three lengths at Belmont May 6. A 10 3/4-length first-out maiden winner last August at Monmouth Park, the Maryland-bred Purge filly was second in two allowance races as well.
$150,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:17 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Kissa Melissa (FL), D Cohen, 113, D Jacobson
2. Hilda's Passion (KY), J Castellano, 123, T A Pletcher
3. Curlina (KY), J F Chavez, 113, G P Gullo
4. Erin Rose (MD), A O Solis, 114, C Clement
5. Tidal Pool (KY), J R Velazquez, 117, D W Lukas
6. Kid Kate (KY), R A Dominguez, 115, C C Brown
7. Streaker (KY), J Lezcano, 115, C R McGaughey III