Team Valor International’s State of Play tops a field of seven and is the horse to beat in the $100,000 Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) Oct. 2 at Belmont Park.
For juveniles going 1 1/16 miles on turf, the Pilgrim runners will be looking for a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) next month.
Also on the card is the Pilgrim’s sister race, the $100,000 Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT). A field of 10 2-year-old fillies running the same distance will hope to pad their résumés for the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT). P. G. Johnson Stakes winner Alaura Michele and Junior Champion Stakes winner Slip Along Band are the most accomplished runners.
State of Play, a son of War Front, will carry top weight of 122 pounds in the Pilgrim. The colt, bought for just $13,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, is undefeated in two turf starts at Saratoga. He broke his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths July 27 while sprinting, then returned to narrowly win the Sept. 1 With Anticipation (gr. IIIT).
State of Play, trained by Graham Motion, has had one work since the 1 1/16-mile With Anticipation, a five-furlong drill Sept. 25 at Fair Hill training center in Maryland.
“He’s done great and everything has gone to plan,” said Motion. “He’s a straightforward horse and is pretty adaptable. He settled well last time for Ramon (Dominguez). We already have our ticket to the Breeders’ Cup, and this race was the closest to our home.”
Dominguez has the return call and the pair will leave from post 6 as the 2-1 morning-line favorite.
Also exiting the With Anticipation is Captain Webb, who finished sixth as the favorite in the field of nine.
“It was a very disappointing performance,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of Captain Webb’s With Anticipation. “He kind of got stuck inside and shuffled back in a paceless race, and he lacked room in the stretch to give his best effort. We’re hoping for a better set-up and a better trip.”
A son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner English Channel, whom Pletcher also trained, Captain Webb broke his maiden on July 30 at Saratoga in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden race. The ridgling is campaigned by James Scatuorchio.
In the Miss Grillo, Siena Farms’ homebred Alaura Michele will probably take most of the money off her 2 1/4-length victory in the Aug. 31 P. G. Johnson at 1 1/16 miles. The Bill Mott-trained daughter of Arch was also a decisive maiden winner on the Belmont turf course in her second career start, scoring by 4 1/4 lengths when sprinting. Eddie Castro will keep the mount on the 2-1 morning-line favorite.
“She rated better than I expected and she was good in behind horses,” Mott said of her stakes debut. “She showed what I thought was a nice, explosive kick coming home.”
Owned and trained by Maryland-based Michael Pino, Slip Along Band is undefeated in the first two starts of her career. The Bowman's Band filly won her debut on the Presque Isle Downs Tapeta in July and successfully stepped up to stakes company Sept. 4 when wiring the field in the Junior Champion on the Monmouth Park turf. Pino will keep Kendrick Carmouche as the rider.
Stepping up from the maiden ranks is Sweet Cat, victorious in a turf sprint at the Spa on Sept. 1 Pletcher.
“Timing-wise it just worked out,” Pletcher said. “We ran her 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga not so much because we feel like she’s just a sprinter; she trains like one that will stretch out, so we were just hoping to get her maiden broke and set her up for one of the stakes.”
$100,000 Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), 2YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Royal Bonnie (NY), J Castellano, 117, G Weaver
2. Bourbonstreetgirl (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, G C Contessa
3. Alaura Michele (KY), E Castro, 121, W I Mott
4. Tanglewood Tale (KY), R A Dominguez, 115, D L Romans
5. Slip Along Band (KY), K Carmouche, 121, M V Pino
6. Pure Gossip (NY), R Curatolo, 115, P M Serpe
7. Take It Inside (NY), E S Prado, 117, M E Gorham
8. Salsa Mambo (KY), C Brock, 117, G C Contessa
9. Mystic Mama (KY), J Lezcano, 115, D S Ryan
10. Sweet Cat (KY), J R Velazquez, 117, T A Pletcher
$100,000 Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:18 p.m.), 2YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Captain Webb (KY), J R Velazquez, 118, T A Pletcher
2. Knock Rock (KY), R Maragh, 116, S M Schwartz
3. Fox Rules (NY), J A Grabowski, 118, M A Ferraro
4. Kitten's Kid (KY), J L Castanon, 118, M R Scherer
5. Fantastic Song (KY), J Castellano, 118, C C Brown
6. State of Play (KY), R A Dominguez, 122, H G Motion
7. Shkspeare Shaliyah (FL), A O Solis, 118, D Shivmangal