Impressive 2-year-old Interactif, fresh off his commanding victory in the With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIIT), returns as the one to beat in the $150,000 Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) Oct. 4 at Belmont Park.
A spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) is on the line in the 1 1/16-mile Pilgrim, as the winner receives an automatic berth in the Nov. 7 contest at Santa Anita Park. A field of nine was entered.
Interactif, a homebred of Wertheimer and Frere, will have to carry 122 pounds and concede four to six pounds to his Pilgrim challengers based on his 4 1/4-length With Anticipation score Sept. 4 at Saratoga, which was his turf debut. Todd Pletcher assigned Kent Desormeaux to ride the son of Broken Vow once again.
Interactif, out of the Broad Brush mare Broad Pennant, broke his maiden on the Monmouth Park main track and then was eighth in the Sanford (gr. II) before being switched to grass.
“We were very pleased with the way he ran in Saratoga,” said Pletcher of the 5-2 morning-line favorite. “He seems to have found his niche on the grass.”
Pletcher will also saddle Zayat Stables’ Eskendereya, who was runner-up in his debut Sept. 7 at Saratoga.
Eli Gindi and Morris Bailey’s Billions Boy was the colt that defeated Eskendereya in that maiden special weight contest, and the son of Johannesburg is back for the Pilgrim. John Kimmel trains the bay, who won in wire-to-wire fashion by 1 1/4 lengths in his third start.
“I’d really like to get this horse to come off the bridle a little bit,” Kimmel said. “He’s very single-minded and he’ll give you whatever he’s got, which is why I think it’s a nice challenge to see if he could track somebody.”
Also returning from the With Anticipation are the third- and fourth-place finishers, Paddy O'Prado and Dean's Kitten, respectively.
Paddy O’Prado came from well off the pace in the With Anticipation and missed by 4 1/4 lengths after a late move. He is winless in three starts for Dale Romans.
Dean’s Kitten, from the barn of Michael Maker, broke his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion Aug. 5 at Saratoga before enduring a troubled trip in the With Anticipation. By Kitten's Joy, he is a homebred of Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
Also on the Oct. 4 Belmont card is the Pilgrim’s sister race, the $150,000 Miss Grillo for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf. A field of eight was entered. The winner will receive an automatic berth to the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Trainer Chad Brown is hoping to repeat the exacta he pulled in 2008. Brown sent of Maram to win the Miss Grillo, and the filly came back to win the inaugural Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. This year, he will saddle Ronald Brown’s Zodiac Girl.
A daughter of Aldebaran, Zodiac Girl is entering off a maiden victory in a $75,000 claimer, a three-length, come-from-behind win at Saratoga Aug. 26 at the Miss Grillo distance.
“She’s different from Maram in that she’s not real big and doesn’t have as much early speed,” Brown said of Zodiac Girl, who will be ridden by Jose Lezcano as the 4-1 third choice behind the favored Augustin Stable entry of Smart Seattle and Zilva (2-1), and Frank L. Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly (5-2). “She’s a little more long-winded, and I think you’ll see her down the road going a distance of ground.”
While many of the Miss Grillo contenders are coming off maiden victories, the most seasoned filly in the field is Tapitsfly, who scored a 1 1/4-length victory in the P.G. Johnson Stakes on the turf at Saratoga Sept. 3. The gray daughter of Tapit, trained by Dale Romans, broke her maiden in an off-the-turf race for jockey Robby Albarado at the Spa Aug. 3 after three tries on the dirt.
“She couldn’t be training any better,” said Romans. “We thought she would move up on turf, and she did.”
$150,000 Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), 2YO, 1 1/16 Mile (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Billions Boy (KY),R Maragh, 118, J C Kimmel
2. Dean's Kitten (KY), J R Leparoux, 118, M J Maker
3. Mr. Vegas (NY), E S Prado, 118, M E Hushion
4. Bricklayer (KY), C H Velasquez, 116, F A Alexander
5. Interactif (KY), K J Desormeaux, 122, T A Pletcher
6. Eskendereya (KY), J Castellano, 116, T A Pletcher
7. Western Flyer (KY), A Garcia, 116, K P McLaughlin
8. Shrimp Dancer (NY), J R Velazquez, 118, D G Donk
9. Paddy O'Prado (KY), R A Dominguez, 116, D L Romans
10. Chairman Now (KY), (MTO), A Garcia 116 R A Violette, Jr.
$150,000 Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 6, 3:39 p.m.), 2YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Mile (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Smart Seattle (PA), J Rose, 117, H G Motion
2. Zodiac Girl (KY), J Lezcano, 117, C C Brown
3. Zilva (PA), J Rose, 117, H G Motion
4. Negligee (KY), R Maragh, 115, J P Terranova, II
5. Hatheer (KY), A Garcia, 117, K P McLaughlin
6. Tapitsfly (KY), R Albarado, 121, D L Romans
7. Check the Label (KY), L R A Dominguez, 117, H G Motion
8. Dad's Crazy (KY), J R Leparoux, 115, T A Pletcher
9. Fuzzy Britches (KY), (MTO), 115, R E Dutrow Jr.