Hessonite, a troubled fifth in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational on September 29, remains on target for a title defense run in the $175,000 Ticonderoga on October 20, New York Showcase Day, at Belmont Park.
The four-year-old daughter of Freud breezed six furlongs on the fast Belmont training track in 1:14 2/5 on Saturday in her first official workout since the Flower Bowl, in which she commenced an inside rally on the far turn, checked off heels and bounced off the hedge after Bizzy Caroline drifted inward.
"We're very fortunate after the trip she had that she did come back OK," trainer David Donk remarked. "So, she's trained quite well in the last couple of weeks."
In the Ticonderoga, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for New York-bred fillies and mares, Hessonite will be reunited with regular rider Ramon Dominguez, who opted to ride runner-up Zagora in the Flower Bowl.
"They're a good team," Donk said of Hessonite and Dominguez. "She came back after a pretty frustrating trip and it didn't take much out of her. She cooled out really easily after the race. We got lucky nothing happened to her when she checked so hard in there, but nothing happened so it looks like, knock on wood, everything's good."
Hessonite has won six stakes in her career, including three straight prior to the Flower Bowl.
Donk said he plans to also run Freedom Rings in the Ticonderoga. The Proud Citizen mare finished a distant second to Hessonite in the John Hettinger on September 9.
"I'm limited on the spots to run (Freedom Rings)," Donk explained. "I prefer to run her at a distance of 1 1/8 miles and farther and this is only 1 1/16 miles, but she will come back (in the Ticonderoga)."
In other New York Showcase Day news, trainer Tom Bush will be well-represented with a trio of stakes runners in addition to some planned undercard starters.
Leading Bush's stakes contingent is last-out Grade 3 Saranac winner Unbridled Command, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02 over the good inner turf at Belmont Park on Sunday in advance of the 1 1/16-mile, $175,000 Mohawk Stakes on the turf.
Unbridled Command, winner of his last three starts, was entered in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap on October 6 at Belmont Park, but Bush opted to scratch the three-year-old Master Command colt in favor of a start on Showcase Day.
"We thought we'd have to lay much closer in (the Jamaica) than what I think his best race is," Bush said. "When he ran in the Saranac, there was a lot of pace and he was able to get back and make that run. I think that's his best race, and it wasn't going to be that kind of race in the Jamaica.
"(The Mohawk) will be tough, too. I don't know if we can beat those older horses or not, but it is October. You're supposed to be able to compete against them if you're good enough, so we're going to find out."
Multiple stakes victress Beautiful But Blue will also square off against older fillies and mares in next Saturday's $150,000 Iroquois Stakes. The daughter of El Corredor returns to New York-bred company after a pair of third-place efforts in open stakes -- the Charles Town Oaks and Grade 1 Test. Prior to those starts she had beaten elder state-breds in the Spa's Fleet Indian and counts two of her five wins at the Iroquois seven-furlong distance.
"It's the same with Beautiful But Blue," Bush said. "You've got to run against the older ones sometime. Going long, she's probably got a little bit more speed, but going short, she's a good stalker. That's probably the kind of trip we'll have again in this race. I hope so."
On Sunday, Beautiful But Blue posted a 1:03 five-furlong breeze on the fast main track at Belmont.
Bush added that Wholelottashakin will go in the Ticonderoga off a fourth-place effort in the Given overnight stakes on September 20 at Belmont Park. The Scat Daddy miss was clocked in 1:01 3/5 for five furlongs over the turf on Sunday.
Trainer Juan "Manny" Coronel issued an upbeat bulletin Sunday morning as his filly Risky Rachel aims for her second straight win in the $150,000 Iroquois, a seven-furlong race for New York-bred fillies and mares on New York Showcase Day.
"She's coming out into this race perfect," said Coronel, who competed as a jockey in his native Argentina before coming to the United States. "We're very excited. No excuses. Everything is really, really good."
Risky Rachel won last year's Iroquois under the care of trainer H. James Bond, Coronel's former boss. Owner Sanford Bacon transferred Risky Rachel to Coronel when the Argentine set out on his own earlier this year, and the five-year-old daughter of Limehouse gave Coronel his first win as a trainer when she won the Broadway in March at Aqueduct.
After the Broadway, Risky Rachel made three starts at Belmont, winning the Putthepowdertoit overnight stakes, finishing last of seven when trying turf for the first time in the Mount Vernon, and reporting home second in the Chaldea overnight stakes. She enters the Iroquois off a second to Beautiful But Blue in the Fleet Indian and a 3 1/2-length triumph in the Union Avenue in August at Saratoga last out.
"We gave her a little break after her race in Saratoga," Coronel explained. "Perfect. She had three very tough races, one at Belmont and at Saratoga. I couldn't be more happy pointing for (the Iroquois). She's coming in a little fresh, but she loves to be fresh. She needs a little space (between races), and everything is really, really good. Seven furlongs, I don't mind. She's going to give a huge race."
Trainer Christophe Clement will have two representatives on New York Showcase Day with Miss Valentine heading to the Iroquois and Lubash looking for his third straight stakes victory of the year in the Mohawk.
"Lubash has been a pleasant surprise," Clement said of the Freud five-year-old who ran second in the Mohawk last season. "He's getting older, and sometimes they get better when they get older. He's been very consistent -- he races on soft, he races on firm, and that's nice, because this time of year anything can happen.
"We didn't have anything to run her in during September, so she will train up to New York Showcase Day," the horseman added of Miss Valentine, a four-year-old Afleet Alex filly who will be making her first start since finishing third to Beautiful But Blue and Risky Rachel in the Fleet Indian. "I thought in the past she wanted to go further, but in fact she's more like a come-from-behind, seven-furlong, miler. You have more pace going seven furlongs or a mile, and she needs a lot of pace to run at."