Unrivaled Belle, who defeated 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in her last start, bids for her first grade I victory when she faces just four rivals in the $250,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 12.
Trained by Bill Mott, Peter Vegso's 4-year-old roan/gray filly won a hard-fought duel by a head over Rachel Alexandra at 9-1 odds after making a four-wide move move for jockey Kent Desormeaux in the La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs April 30.
“I think the race she ran last time was as competitive as a grade I, taking on last year’s champion,” said Mott, the Hall of Fame conditioner who filled in a blank spot on his own resume June 5 when he saddled Drosselmeyer to win the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). “And having beaten Rachel Alexandra, I would say she definitely belongs there.”
Belmont officials are undoubtedly wishing a few more did as well after the 1 1/16-mile Phipps came up exceptionally light. Unrivaled Belle, even-money on the morning line, has just two main rivals, Funny Moon and Life At Ten. The other two in the field, Manitoba Miss and Pumpkin Shell, appear to be hoping for a grade I placing. The Phipps goes as race four on the program with a 2:36 EDT post.
Unrivaled Belle came to New York last year after a maiden win and took an allowance race at Belmont Park in October. She ran off to a nearly seven-length score in an overnight stakes three weeks later, and finally wrapped up her 3-year-old season by finishing second to Flashing in the Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) at Aqueduct Nov. 28.
She started her 4-year-old campaign in California with a fourth-place finish in the La Canada Feb. 14 on Santa Anita Park's Pro-Ride surface. She followed that with a front-running win in the Rampart Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park before her La Troienne score.
Desormeaux rides Unrivaled Belle, the 119-pound top weight, from post three. Unrivaled Belle is two-for-two at Belmont while compiling a 5-2-0 overall mark in eight starts with earnings of $524,929.
Mrs. C. Wilson McNeely III’s Funny Moon, the field's lone grade I winner, captured the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) May 15 at Belmont, upsetting Seattle Smooth by 2 3/4 lengths after stalking the pace. Trained by Christophe Clement, the 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon had just four opponents in the Shuvee as well.
Funny Moon took the 2009 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) by a neck over Don't Forget Gil. In her only start besides the Shuvee this year, she finished a well-backed second to Haka in the Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III) on Keeneland’s Polytrack.
Alan Garcia has the mount on Funny Moon, 5-2 on the morning line, under 117 pounds from the rail.
Todd Pletcher-trained Life At Ten, a 5-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, puts a four-race win streak on the line in the Phipps. Her first try in a graded stakes April 17 at Hawthorne produced a one-length victory in the Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III).
Off the board just once in 12 starts (she was seventh on a yielding turf course at Belmont last fall in her lone start on grass), Cynthia DeBartolo's Life At Ten has five wins, five seconds, and one third to her credit. In six starts on conventional dirt, she is 4-2-0.
“We’ve always thought she was a good filly,” said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “She has put together some nice races.”
John Velazquez rides the 3-1 choice. She carries 116 pound from post two.$250,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I, Race 4 2:36 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Funny Moon (KY), A Garcia, 117, C Clement
2. Life At Ten (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher
3. Unrivaled Belle (KY), K J Desormeaux, 119, W I Mott
4. Pumpkin Shell (KY), E S Prado, 112, D G Donk
5. Manitoba Miss (ON), R Maragh, 112, G Weaver