Trainer Bill Kaplan confirmed Friday that 2011 champion female sprinter Musical Romance will make her next start at Belmont Park in the Grade 2, $200,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap on September 22. The Gallant Bloom is run at 6 1/2 furlongs.
With a record of 2-1-0 from five starts this year, Musical Romance exits a victory in Calder's Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap on July 7 at Calder, her home track. Considered for a start in Saratoga's Grade 1 Ballerina on August 24, the five-year-old daughter of Concorde's Tune skipped the race because transportation from Florida to New York proved to be a challenge.
"The reason we didn't run in Saratoga or at Presque Isle (in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters September 8) was that we couldn't find transportation," Kaplan said by phone. "It's cooler now, and she's going to ship up by private van. She's supposed to get in at 7 a.m. (EDT Saturday)."
Kaplan said he would arrive in New York late next week and that his assistant, Alfredo Guzman, would travel with the mare.
"She's doing very well," Kaplan said of Musical Romance, who breezed five furlongs on Wednesday at Calder in 1:00 1/5 under regular jockey Juan Leyva. "I'm from New York and it will be nice to get back and run there."
Kaplan has not run a horse at a NYRA track since July 1, 2008, when he had a string at Belmont Park during the spring/summer meet.
Emma's Encore tuned up for her first start against her elders in the Gallant Bloom Handicap with a five-furlong breeze on Thursday at Belmont.
Unraced since coming off the pace to win Saratoga's Grade 1 Prioress on August 4, Emma's Encore was clocked in :59 1/5, the quickest of four moves at the distance.
"I thought she'd go a little slower," said her Hall of Fame trainer, Allen Jerkens. "She's funny. If you take too much hold of her, she shakes her head and stuff. In the afternoon (her riders) don't have any trouble. Of course, you don't have any trouble rating a horse behind a 22 (opening quarter-mile) or 21 and change."
Emma's Encore has won two straight, with a 39-1 upset in Belmont's Grade 3 Victory Ride in July preceding her Prioress score. She'll face established older horses like Musical Romance and Grade 1 Ballerina winner Turbulent Descent in the Gallant Bloom.
"We're going to have to (try older fillies and mares) pretty soon, anyway," Jerkens said. "What are we going to do? You're not going to win all of them, so you try hard and do the best you can do."
Jerkens added that jockey Rosie Napravnik will take over for injured Junior Alvarado aboard Emma's Encore.
Trainer Ian Wilkes said that Island Bound is also targeting the Gallant Bloom Winner of the Grade 3 Winning Colors in June, Island Bound is looking to rebound off a last-of-six performance in the Ballerina on August 24.
"She doesn't like the inside and she drew the rail (in the Ballerina), and she just didn't like being down there," Wilkes said.
The Robert T. Manfuso color-bearer breezed four furlongs in :48 4/5 on Monday.
"Everything is on schedule. It looks like she handled the move fine," said Wilkes, who added that he hasn't decided when Island Bound will have her final breeze in the lead up to the Gallant Bloom.
In addition to Musical Romance, Emma's Encore, Turbulent Descent and Island Bound, the Gallant Bloom is also expected to attract Grade 2 Honorable Miss victress C C's Pal, and Prioress runner-up Judy the Beauty, NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes said Friday. Dust and Diamonds, Nakano and Strike the Moon were listed as possible for the race.