Tar Heel Mom and Pomeroys Pistol, both second in grade I events at Saratoga in their most recent starts, attempt to get back to the winner's circle in the $150,000 Foxwoods Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Sept. 24.
Alex Rankin's Tar Heel Mom, the 120-pound top weight, comes off a distant second-place effort to Hilda's Passion in the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 27. She is the 2-1 morning line favorite. Amy Tarrant's 3-year-old Pomeroys Pistol, likewise, was no match for Turbulent Descent while finishing a clear second in the Test Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 6. Listed at odds of 5-2, she will be facing older fillies and mares for the first time.
The Foxwoods Gallant Bloom, at 6 1/2 furlongs, drew a field of seven. It is race 9 on the Belmont card with a probable post of 5:18 p.m. EDT. Both Tar Heel Mom and Pomeroys Pistol, who carries 115, are cutting back in distance from seven furlongs.
Trained by Stanley Hough, Tar Heel Mom is enjoying a strong 2011 with four wins and three seconds in eight starts. The 6-year-old daughter of Flatter has won both the Honorable Miss (gr. II) at Saratoga and the Sugar Swirl (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park this season. She has performed well during her career at Belmont Park, where she has two wins, a second, and two thirds in six tries.
With Alex Solis aboard in the Ballerina, Tar Heel Mom stumbled at the start and was forced to quicken in order to stay close to Hilda's Passion, giving way in the lane while holding off Gallant Bloom rival Tamarind Hall by a neck for second.
Solis, who has won four of six races aboard Tar Heel Mom this year, retains the mount. They drew the rail in a field that appears to have quite a bit of speed. Tar Heel Mom, who does her best running on or near the lead, has been very consistent in her career, finishing in the money in 24 of her 29 starts with 11 victories and earnings of $828,392.
Pomeroys Pistol is also trained by Tarrant. The Pomeroy filly was beaten by 3 3/4 lengths last time after making a wide late bid in the Test. In her only previous start at Belmont, she ran second, a half-length behind Her Smile, in the Prioress Stakes (gr. I) July 4.
“She’s going to the Breeders’ Cup, so we might as well find out now instead of later,” said Tarrant of facing older rivals. “I think she’ll be fine. This race gives us seven weeks from the Test and six weeks to recuperate leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. Obviously, she’ll have to come out of this race well.”
Winner of the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Jan. 30, Pomeroys Pistol is looking for her first victory since taking the Just Smashing Stakes at Monmouth Park June 11. Javier Castellano will ride the bay filly for the first time. They will break from post 6.
Prior to her third-place finish in the Ballerina, Eklektikos Stable's Tamarind Hall captured the seven-furlong Bed o' Roses Handicap (gr. III) by 5 1/4 lengths at Belmont at odds of nearly 16-1. That was the first graded win for the 4-year-old daughter of Graeme Hall trained by Jeremiah Englehardt. The chestnut filly has won seven of 19 lifetime starts and will be ridden by regular pilot David Cohen.
Englehart believes the Ballerina set up Tamarind Hall well for the Gallant Bloom.
“The timing going into this is about perfect, about a month, and she has been sharp,” he said.
Moontune Missy, conditioned by Eoin Harty for Goldmark Farm, missed by a head to My Jen when attempting to register a 25-1 upset in last year's Gallant Bloom. Now 5, the speedy daughter of Forest Wildcat is coming off narrow second-place finish in Saratoga's Lady Tak Aug. 31, which was her first start in more than six months. Moontune Missy, to be ridden again by Rajiv Maragh, is in search of her first graded stakes win.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is represented by Mill House's Katy Now, who was third in the 6 1/2-furlong Lady Tak. The 4-year-old daughter of Tiznow defeated Personal Ensign (gr. I) winner Ask the Moon while winning an optional claiming allowance at Belmont in June. She is two-for-four over the track.
Lovely Lil brings a two-race win streak into the Gallant Bloom for trainer Michael Hushion and owner Barry Schwartz. The 4-year-old Tiznow offspring tallied by 1 3/4 lengths in the six-furlong Union Avenue Stakes for New York-breds at Saratoga Aug. 22.
Also coming into the race off a victory is Avalon Farms' Buckleupbuttercup, a three-length winner over an optional claiming field going seven furlongs at Saratoga Aug. 24.
$150,000 Foxwoods Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:18 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Tar Heel Mom (KY), A O Solis, 120, S M Hough
2. Moontune Missy (KY), R Maragh, 115, E G Harty
3. Buckleupbuttercup (KY), C H Velasquez, 115, E Kenneally
4. Tamarind Hall (FL), D Cohen, 118, J C Englehart
5. Lovely Lil (NY), R A Dominguez, 114, M E Hushion
6. Pomeroys Pistol (FL), J Castellano, 115, A Tarrant
7. Katy Now (KY), C S Nakatani, 115, T A Pletcher