There was a time not too long ago that a meeting among the nation’s best fillies and mares in the $600,000 Beldame (gr. I) was a distinct possibility. But with Rachel Alexandra on the sideline, Zenyatta staying in California for the Lady’s Secret (gr. I), and Icon Project now heading to Keeneland’s Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I), the Beldame has lost some of its appeal.
The defections of the aforementioned stars now leaves Godolphin’s Music Note as the one to beat in the nine-furlong contest, and the 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy will have to defeat only four rivals to earn the fifth grade I victory of her career. Based on her last race and her success at Belmont, the bay filly certainly seems up to the task.
Music Note, the 2-5 morning-line choice, enters the Beldame off a convincing 5 1/4-length romp in the seven-furlong Ballerina (gr. I) Aug. 29 on the Saratoga slop. It was just her second start of the season after finishing fifth in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) while coming off a seven and a half month hiatus.
As a 3-year-old, Music Note won four times over the Belmont main track, including grade I triumphs in the Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Gazelle. The 8 1/2-length Gazelle score set her up for a run in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita, where she finished a solid third to Zenyatta. In that race, Music Note was a 9-1 longshot and facing older horses for the first time. If the talented filly were to win the Beldame as expected, there are some who believe she will a major force if she returns to Santa Anita for the Nov. 6 Ladies Classic.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Music Note has earned just over $1 million from 10 starts—six of them wins. Bred in Kentucky by Gainborough Farm, she is out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Note Musicale. Rajiv Maragh will ride from post 1.
If Music Note is to be seriously challenged, it could come from the coupled entry of Unbridled Belle and Captain's Lover, both owned by Team Valor International and trained by Todd Pletcher.
Unbridled Belle, a 6-year-old with more than $1.7 million in earnings, is nearing the end of her career. The daughter of Broken Vow, who will be retired at the end of the season and bred to Medaglia d'Oro, enters off a last-place finish in the Aug. 30 Personal Ensign (gr. I) at Saratoga where she faded badly after a half mile. Her lone victory in four starts this season came in Delaware Park’s Obeah (gr. III) over a sloppy track.
Unbridled Belle, to be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, won the Beldame by a head in 2007, the lone grade I score of her career. That was the same year she won the $1-million Delaware Handicap (gr. II).
“The weather is going to be a key part for Unbridled Belle,” team Valor president Barry Irwin said. “She’s run only once well on an off track at Delaware. If it’s dry, we’ll be as hopeful as ever.”
Pletcher will try Captain’s Lover on dirt for the second time after she dominated in her main track debut Aug. 2 in Monmouth Park’s Matchmaker Stakes. The 5-year-old South African daughter of Captain Al drew away in the stretch to win by seven lengths in the slop for her first North American stakes victory.
A multiple group stakes winner in South Africa, Captain’s Lover had made all of her other 12 starts on turf. After the Matchmaker, Pletcher tried her in the Aug. 29 Ballston Spa (gr. IIT), but she tired in the stretch to finish sixth.
“We like the way (Captain’s Lover) breezed on dirt and like the way she came out of it,” Pletcher said. “The options were to keep her here or ship to Keeneland and run on a synthetic surface, so we figured we’d take what’s in front of us.”
Pletcher also has a third charge in an attempt to take down Music Note, Besilu Stables' With Flying Colors. The 4-year-old filly broke her maiden in April and was sixth in the Personal Ensign (gr.I) Aug. 30.
Completing the field is Copper State, winner of the Central Iowa Stakes at Prairie Meadows last out for Steve Asmussen.
The Beldame is the first of five grade I races on Jockey Club Gold Cup day. Post time is set for 3:23 p.m. EDT.
$600,000 Beldame (gr. IT Race 6, 3:23 p.m.), Fillies and Mares 3-Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Music Note (KY), R Maragh, 123, S bin Suroor
2. Captain's Lover (SAF), J R Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher
3. Unbridled Belle (KY), R A Dominguez, 123, T A Pletcher
4. Copper State (IL), S Bridgmohan, 123, S M Asmussen
5. With Flying Colors (KY), J Castellano, 123, T A Pletcher