Minorette Springs Mild Belmont Oaks Upset
Trained by Chad Brown, who aced a stakes double by taking the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) with Zivo the race before, the 3-year-old daughter of Smart Strike ran down pacesetter Sea Queen to notch her first grade I score for Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith.
"She was really training big coming into this race. We were pretty confident she'd give a good showing of herself in here," Brown said. "The more I got to train her, even before we first ran her, she just moved and looked like a mile-and-a-quarter horse. Her pedigree wouldn't deter you from that, either. We just took our time with her.
"I tell you, the Coolmore group is a wonderful organization to train for. They never told me where to run, when to run. 'It's a nice filly we're giving you, and just give us some feedback.'"
Formerly the Garden City Stakes, the Belmont Oaks was contested at 1 1/4 miles on the lawn as a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). It was Brown's third straight victory in the race—he sent out Alterite in 2013 and Samitar in 2012.
Minorette came off a runner-up finish in the May 5 Wonder Again Stakes going 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont inner turf in her second U.S. start after debuting with a third in a Keeneland allowance back in April. She had one win from four starts in Ireland last year.
"After the race at Keeneland at a mile when she was closing pretty good and got a good number out of the race, I immediately circled this big one and said, 'Let's just go for it,'" said Brown. "I gave her a local prep and it worked, because that's what preps are for. She got a run over the course, and the jock got to know her. When the money counted today, he rode her perfect."
After breaking in a bit at the start, Minorette straightened away and settled third in the field of 10 sophomore fillies as Sea Queen struck out for the lead. The front-runner got a quarter in :24.87 and a half in :50.14 while opening a 1 1/2-length advantage, as Minorette kept her aim from the three path.
Sea Queen still held the lead through three-quarters in 1:14.57, and sprinted for home under pressure from Wonderfully as that one made her move after tracking the pace.
Minorette, however, rallied to challenge for command—and after working her way past Wonderfully through a mile in 1:38.02, collared the pacesetter within the final sixteenth en route to a two-length score.
Final time for the distance on good turf was 2:01.64.
"She moves like she wanted to go longer," Rosario said. "Last time, I moved a little early to take the lead and she waited a little bit. This time I wanted to be a little closer because it looked like there wasn't a lot of speed. I could see (Sea Queen) on the outside and wanted to keep an eye on her, and I didn't want to move early. When (Minorette) took the lead she just kept on going."
The winner returned $14.60, $6.30, and $5.50. Sea Queen paid $9.60 and $6.80, with Summer Solo bringing $11.60 while 1 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Xcellence, Wonderfully, Goldy Espony, Room Service, Flying Jib, Rosalind, and Recepta completed the order of finish. My Conquestadory scratched.
Room Service, the 5-2 favorite, trailed the field for six furlongs and made no impact.
Bred in Kentucky by Coolmore's Silk and Scarlet Syndicate out of the group II-winning Sadler's Wells mare Silk and Scarlet, Minorette is a half sister to grade I winners Master of Hounds and Eishin Apollon. The Belmont Oaks victory dramatically increased her earnings from a 2-1-2 record in seven starts to $603,774.
Trainer Christophe Clement, who sent out both Sea Queen and Summer Solo, said he was pleased with the efforts of his runners.
"Both fillies ran very well," he said. "It was fun to have a top class 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-old fillies at this time of the year. They both ran a great race and nobody can take that away from them. We were expecting to be on the lead or close to the lead (with Sea Queen); she's a galloper, and that's what she likes. Summer Solo ran great. I knew she was going to run a good race; she's trained so well. She's a very nice New York-bred."
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