The Coolmore connections of Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith hit a nice jackpot July 5 when their Minorette drew clear in the $1 million Belmont Invitational Oaks (gr. IT). With trainer Chad Brown at the helm, they'll try to grab another rich pot Aug. 16 at Saratoga Race Course in the $300,000 Knob Creek Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT).
The nine-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies drew just six with Mathis Stable's My Miss Sophia in the lineup as a main-track-only entrant. My Miss Sophia, a daughter of Unbridled's Song, disappointed last time out in the one-mile Acorn Stakes (gr. I) but earlier in the year was second to division leader Untapable in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and won the Gazelle Stakes (gr. II).
The Lake Placid, scheduled for the inner turf course, goes as race 3 on a card that features the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies on the main track.
Despite a paucity of runners, Minorette won't have it easy as she'll square off against Xcellence, four lengths back and fourth in the Belmont Oaks in her North American debut and also coming out of the Brown barn; sharp allowance winner Crown Queen, a half sister to multiple champion Royal Delta; and challengers Duff One and V V Goodnight (cross-entered in Arlington International's Hatoof Stakes).
Minorette, by two-time leading sire Smart Strike (by Mr. Prospector) out of group II winner Silk And Scarlet, is a half sister to UAE group I winner Master of Hounds, a son of Kingmambo (by Mr. Prospector). A maiden winner in Ireland last July, Minorette had a minor role in a pair of group stakes last year at the Curragh. She's matured at 3 and taken to racing in the U.S.
A close up third to the stakes-winning A Little Bit Sassy (second July 23 in Saratoga's Lake George Stakes, gr. IIT) going a mile at Keeneland in April, Minorette had the lead but surrendered to Sea Queen in the nine-furlong Wonder Again Stakes on the turf at Belmont prior to her Oaks triumph. Her 112 BRIS Speed Rating for the Oaks is tops in the field.
In the Lake Placid she'll get acquainted with rider Jose Lezcano for the first time and will go to the post with a pair of bullet works under her belt: a :59.89 five-furlong move, breezing, over firm going on the Saratoga training track Aug. 5 that was followed by a :47.77 half-mile Aug. 11.
Xcellence carries the hopes of owner Martin Schwartz, who has made his way in the game through purchasing young European-based fillies and finding success in the States.
A group III winner to start her 2014 campaign in France in April, Xcellence was near the leaders and held for third in the one-mile Poule de'Essai des Pouliches (Fr-I, French One Thousand Guineas) in May. She had the lead but was run down in the Prix de Diane Longines (Fr-I, French Oaks) in June.
Coming from off the pace in the Belmont Oaks under Gerald Mosse, she rallied for minor spoils. She, too, has a pair of bullet works and figures to improve in her second stateside start and first with jockey Joe Bravo aboard. Saratoga Race Course, Saturday, August 16, 2014, Race 3
Bred in France by Haras D'Ecouves and Henri De Pracomtal, Xcellence is by Champs Elysees out of the Xaar mare Xanadu Bliss.
Besilu Stables' Crown Queen is out of Delta Princess (by A.P. Indy), who was euthanized Aug. 5 because of a degenerative stifle condition at Adena Springs Farm in Kentucky. Delta Princess won three graded stakes in her career and has produced three graded stakes horses including Royal Delta. Crown Queen, by Smart Strike, may become her fourth graded stakes performer in the Lake Placid.
Crown Queen broke her maiden June 15 in her third attempt while going a mile over the turf at Belmont, then drew clear by four against an entry-level allowance cast July 20 going 1 3/8 miles on the turf at Belmont. John Velazquez gets the call and they'll get a four-pound break in the allowance conditions for her stakes debut.
Duff One (Harlan's Holiday—Acadiana, by Tiznow ) was second over the grass at Saratoga last year in the 1 1/16-mile P.G. Johnson Stakes. Lucky Seven Stable's V V Goodnight (Midnight Lute —Victorious Vice, by Vice Regent) was fourth behind A Little Bit Sassy in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day and a close fifth in Churchill's Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT).
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Duff One (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 116 Gary C. Contessa - 2 2My Miss Sophia (KY) UNKNOWN 122 Todd A. Pletcher - 3 3V V Goodnight (KY) Shaun Bridgmohan 116 Thomas F. Proctor - 4 4Xcellence (FR) Joe Bravo 120 Chad C. Brown - 5 5Crown Queen (KY) John R. Velazquez 116 William I. Mott - 6 6Minorette (KY) Jose Lezcano 120 Chad C. Brown -
Saratoga Race Course, Saturday, August 16, 2014, Race 3