Dust and Diamonds, getting good at the right time, disposed of her better-known rivals Musical Romance and Turbulent Descent with ease in capturing the $200,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) by 1 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park Sept. 22 (VIDEO).
Padua Stables' 4-year-old homebred daughter of Vindication earned a starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 3, a race that was won last year by Musical Romance. Neither Musical Romance nor the multiple grade I-winning Turbulent Descent were much of a factor in the 6 1/2-furlong Gallant Bloom, finishing third and fourth respectively and well behind the 8-1 upsetter.
Julien Leparoux was aboard Dust and Diamonds, who always looked like a winner while clocking a superb time of 1:14.71 on a fast track. The track record is 1:14.46. This was the third consecutive win for Dust and Diamonds, who was making her graded stakes debut for trainer Steve Asmussen.
The first foal out of the winning Gone West mare Majestically, Dust and Diamonds was coming off a 5 3/4-length romp in the Dashing Beauty Stakes at Delaware Park July 21. The dark bay or brown filly was working steadily at Belmont Park for her biggest victory.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with her, and she’s done really well and blossomed here," said Toby Sheets, Asmussen's assistant. "(We) haven’t discussed (future plans); we were just focusing on this race and this moment. We’ll see how she comes out of it and go from there.”
Prioress Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Judy the Beauty finished second in the field of eight fillies and mares.
Asmussen won the Gallant Bloom for the second time, following Heiligbrodt Stable's Lady Tak in 2004.
Leparoux had Dust and Diamonds ideally placed in second on the outside of pacesetter Roman Treasure, who led by about two lengths up the backstretch while clipping off a swift opening quarter-mile of :21.82. The half-mile split was :44.87 as Dust and Diamonds, coaxed for more, edged closer on the turn.
Leaving the bend, Dust and Diamonds moved up alongside the leader and soon shook loose. She led by about two lengths at mid-stretch and held well in spite of drifting out a bit late under firm handling from Leparoux.
"She broke very sharp, as usual, and she was very relaxed the first quarter," said Leparoux, who previously rode the filly at Churchill Downs last November. "Then she just took me into the race and finished up strong. The only time I rode her we went very fast and we were pressed all the way. Today we got a pretty easy race, nobody really bothered us.”
Stalking Judy the Beauty, ridden by Joel Rosario, was gaining a bit at the end and finished second by 3 1/4 lengths over Musical Romance. The defending Eclipse Award-winning sprinter rallied belatedly for Juan Leyva to get the show spot by one length over tiring 6-5 choice Turbulent Descent and John Velazquez.
Turbulent Descent was coming off a win in the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 24 in her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher. But she was never a serious threat in the Gallant Bloom after looming up leaving the turn but flattening out in the lane.
“Our biggest concern was the track seems to have been super fast since we’ve come back," Pletcher said. "I wouldn’t know if she likes the track this firm. It seems to be kind of speed-favoring and she got further back than we had hoped. She kind of flattened out the last part. We’ll regroup.”
Roman Treasure finished fifth, followed by Prioress winner Emma's Encore, C C's Pal, and Island Bound.
In her only prior start at Belmont, Dust and Diamonds ran third in the mud in an allowance/optional claiming event last October. Dust and Diamonds, never worse than third in nine lifetime starts, won for the fifth time while extending her earnings to $256,260.
The winner carried 114 pounds, eight fewer than the top-weighted Musical Romance, and paid $19.60, $9.40, and $5.50 as the fifth choice. Judy the Beauty returned $6.20 and $3.60 while rounding out a $101.50 exacta. Musical Romance was worth $3.80 to show.
Mildly Offensive and Risky Rachel were scratched.
Dust and Diamonds and Musical Romance could find new barns soon, as both are consigned by Three Chimneys to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November mixed sale.