Trainer Bill Kaplan confirmed Sept. 14 that 2011 champion female sprinter Musical Romance will make her next start Sept. 22 at Belmont Park in the $200,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) going 6 1/2 furlongs.
The 5-year-old daughter of Concorde's Tune will arrive at Belmont Sept. 15 from Florida via private van.
With a record of 2-1-0 from five starts this year, Musical Romance has not raced since winning the July 7 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) at Calder Casino & Race Course, her home track. Considered for a start in Saratoga’s Aug. 24 Ballerina (gr. I) and the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes Sept. 8, she skipped both races because shipping from Florida to New York proved to be a challenge.
“The reason we didn’t run in Saratoga or at Presque Isle 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. tomorrow.”
Kaplan, who co-owns the mare with Pinnacle Racing Stables, said he would arrive in New York late next week and that his assistant, Alfredo Guzman, would travel with her.
“She’s doing very well,” Kaplan said of Musical Romance, who breezed five furlongs Sept. 12 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 with a five-furlong breeze Sept. 13 at Belmont. Unraced since coming off the pace to win Saratoga’s Prioress (gr. I) Aug. 4, Emma’s Encore was clocked in :59.17, 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.”
Emma’s Encore, owned by Brenda Mercer and Peter A. Berglar, has won two straight, with a 39-1 upset in Belmont’s Victory Ride (gr. III) in July preceding her Prioress score. She’ll face established older horses like Musical Romance and Ballerina (gr. I) winner Turbulent Descent in the Gallant Bloom.
“We’re going to have to try older fillies and mares pretty soon, anyway,” said Jerkens. “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.
Others expected to target the Gallant Bloom include Island Bound, C C's Pal, and Judy the Beauty, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Dust and Diamonds, Nakano, and Strike the Moon were listed as possible for the race.