Christophe Clement, already a four-time winner of the event, has three of the six betting interests entered in the $150,000 Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT) May 28 at Belmont Park.
Clement entered Cheetah, Giants Play, and Tarrip—all for different owners—in the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay for fillies and mares. The turf race will go as race 9 with a probable post time of 5:17 p.m. EDT.
The Sheepshead Bay drew seven, but Belle Watling and Choice Play will run as a coupled entry for Flying Zee Stable and trainer Patrick Biancone.
Of his three, Clement may have his best chance with Robert Scarborough’s Cheetah, who enters off consecutive wins. The 4-year-old Tiger Hill filly won in her North American debut last month at Keeneland, scoring a 1 5/8-mile allowance race on Polytrack. As 2 and 3, Cheetah raced in England, winning twice including the Williamhill.com Wild Flower Stakes on the Kempton Polytrack. Garrett Gomez, aboard for the 3 3/4-length win at Keeneland, will keep the mount.
"She won very well,” said Clement’s assistant, Christophe Lorieul. “The filly that was second (Dyna Waltz) was also in England and had very good form. We thought (Dyna Waltz) was the filly to beat and she ran really well.
"We’ll get Cheetah back on the turf here and I don’t think (the change in surface) is much of a problem. She’s a filly that stays and that’s mainly the key, I think. She’ll go the distance no problem whatsoever.”
Newsells Park Stud’s Giants Play also began her career in England, winning once in seven starts. The 4-year-old Giant's Causeway filly shipped to the United States year and has been third in both of her starts, including the March 20 Orchid (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park when beaten 1 1/4 lengths. Rajiv Maragh will have the call for the first time.
“I think she should have maybe been second (in the Orchid),” Lorieul said of Giants Play. “She’s doing well and is the same (type of filly) as Cheetah; she’ll love the distance as well.”
Castelton Lyons’ Tarrip was fourth in the Orchid and will look to snap a seven-race losing streak since winning the first three starts of her career. Earlier this year, the 5-year-old Green Desert mare was third in the La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder.
Clement won the Sheepshead Bay with Trampoli (1993), Lisieux Rose (2000), Mariensky (2003), and Mauralakana (2008).
The winner of the Orchid is also back, Team Valor International’s La Luna de Miel. Trained by Graham Motion, the Monsun filly has won three of five starts in her career thus far, two of them coming in her native Germany.
“The decision (to enter her in longer races) was based on pedigree, more than anything,” said Motion. “I know the family, and they all have stamina. I thought she ran a huge race off the layoff as I was not sure if she was fit enough to win.”
The 2-1 morning-line favorite is two-time group/grade I winner Hibaayeb. Godolphin’s 4-year-old Singspiel filly won the Meon Valley Stud Fillies Mile (Eng-I) at Ascot in 2009 during her 10-race stint in Europe, and scored in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita in her U.S. debut last October. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the Hibaayeb went on to finish eighth in the Emirate Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in November and was third in an optional claimer at Gulfstream April 2 in her season debut.
“Eight and a half furlongs we knew was going to be too short,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to bin Suroor. “She stalked the pace and got a little tired towards the end, which we knew she would coming off the layoff. She had a good winter down at Palm Meadows. The idea was to get a race in her, and the Sheepshead Bay was a logical place to run her back.”
Biancone’s best chance is likely with Belle Watling, the Chilean Horse of the Year in 2010 after posting six wins. She is winless in three starts since arriving in the U.S., including a fifth last out in the Apple Blossom (gr. I).
$150,000 Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:17 p.m.), Fillies and Mares 3 and Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Giants Play (KY), R Maragh, 116, C Clement
2. Hibaayeb (GB), J R Velazquez, 123, S bin Suroor
3. Cheetah (GB), G K Gomez, 116, C Clement
4. Tarrip (KY), R A Dominguez, 116, C Clement
5. La Luna de Miel (GER), E Castro, 120, H G Motion
6. Belle Watling (CHI), R Curatolo, 120, P L Biancone
7. Choice Play (KY), J Samyn, 116, P L Biancone