With a date against the boys looming in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), the connections of Havre de Grace are hoping for a fairly easy prep in the $350,000 Beldame Invitational (gr. I).
That plan may be foiled by the streaking 3-year-old filly Royal Delta
, who poses a legitimate threat to Havre de Grace when they hook up Oct. 1 at Belmont Park. Also in the field is Life At Ten
, who seeks her first win since last year’s Beldame.
A field of five was drawn for the 1 1/8-mile Beldame, which is one of five graded stakes on Belmont’s Saturday program.
Along with the Kelso (gr. II) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I), the Beldame will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic and ESPN3.com from 4:30-6 p.m. EDT.
Fox Hill Farms’ Havre de Grace took a major step toward the Horse of the Year goal set by owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones when she defeated males in the Sept. 3 Woodward (gr. I) at Saratoga. It was the fourth win in five starts this season for the superstar 4-year-old filly, who was pegged as the 3-5 morning-line favorite.
Already in 2011 the daughter of Saint Liam has won the Azeri (gr. III), Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), Obeah (gr. III), and the Woodward, with her lone loss coming by a nose to Blind Luck in the July 16 Delaware Handicap (gr. II). She will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
“We want her to go on out and run a very good race," Jones said. "We feel like we need to win it if we’re going into the Classic. We don’t need to win it by 10 (lengths) or set a big mark for her. We need to get a lighter prep and not a 110 percent effort from her."
Havre de Grace is 7-4-2 from 13 lifetime starts with earnings of nearly $2 million. The bay filly was bred in Kentucky by Nancy Dillman.
Palides Investments N. V.’s homebred Royal Delta will take on older horses for the first time in the Beldame. After finishing third in the July 23 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), the Empire Maker filly proved that she is ready for primetime when she devoured rival sophomores by 5 1/2 lengths in the Aug. 20 Alabama (gr. I).
Winner of the May 20 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico, Royal Delta has made it to the winner’s circle in three of her last four starts. Trainer Bill Mott considered waiting until the Oct. 15 Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland with his filly but liked how she was training at Belmont and decided to take a shot against Havre de Grace.
"She’s here, she trains well here, and she broke her maiden very impressively here, so we’re going to try it,” assistant trainer Leana Willaford said of the 9-5 morning-line second choice. “We’ll let her break and place herself naturally. You don’t want to get in a wrestling match with her; that’s the key.”
Jose Lezcano will have the mount on the dark bay/brown filly, who will get a three-pound weight break and carry 120 pounds.
Candy DeBartolo’s Life At Ten has not been the same since failing to finish last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I). An eight-time winner before that mysterious effort, the Malibu Moon
filly is winless in four starts this season and was beaten 18 1/2 lengths by Blind Luck and Havre de Grace when third in the Delaware Handicap.
If Life At Ten has something going for her, it’s that she has tallied her two biggest lifetime wins at Belmont. She won the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) last summer as part of a six-race win streak, and 12 months ago recorded a two-length win in the Beldame.
Since the Delaware Handicap, Life At Ten has worked steadily for Todd Pletcher at Belmont. She will add blinkers for the Beldame.
"She’s a mare that’s had success at Belmont before,” Pletcher said. “We freshened her up after the Del Cap. She’s looked and trained as well as she ever has, and why she hasn’t performed as well as she has in the past, we’re not sure. Sometimes older horses just tail off and don’t run quite as well. I don’t know if it’s residual hangover from the Breeders’ Cup or what it is. I know we don’t have a horse that looks better in the barn.”
Pletcher has won four of the last six editions of the Beldame.
Also in the Beldame is Satans Quick Chick
, a late-running daughter of Sky Mesa
coming off a second-place finish in the Sightseek at Saratoga. A grade II winner, Satans Quick Chick ran one of her best races this year in her only start at Belmont, a narrow defeat in the Sky Beauty on July 1.
Completing the field is Banker's Buy
,a 5-year-old mare trained by Nick Zito. A daughter of Distorted Humor
, Banker’s Buy has placed first or second in seven of nine lifetime starts at Belmont.
$350,000 Beldame Invitational (gr. I, Race 9, 5:06 p.m.), Fillies and Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Life At Ten (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher, 8-1
2. Royal Delta (KY), J Lezcano, 120, W I Mott, 9-5
3. Banker's Buy (NY), C S Nakatani, 123, N P Zito, 20-1
4. Satans Quick Chick (KY), E S Prado, 123, J Odintz, 12-1
5. Havre de Grace (KY), R A Dominguez, 123, J L Jones, 3-5