Even if the field was larger, Music Note would still be a standout in the 113th running of the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle, given the absence of Proud Spell. The arch-rivals provided a rousing stretch battle in the 10-furlong Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 16 before Proud Spell prevailed at the wire. And given the lack of opportunities during the remainder of the year for a rubber match between them (Music Note defeated Proud Spell in the grade I Mother Goose at Belmont June 28), a race like this could help build the credentials that make the difference at year's end.
With a four-race winning streak prior to the Alabama defeat, Music Note brings by far the best record to the Gazelle. She will face Country Star, a dual grade I winner at 2, and three others while toting top weight of 122. The A.P. Indy filly is back at Belmont, where she has won three of four career starts, including the nine-furlong Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles.
While she barely lost the Alabama, Music Note won the trouble-plagued Mother Goose by 3 1/2 lengths in spite of a stumble at the start, losing one shoe and bending another.
Proud Spell, also troubled in the harrowing Mother Goose journey, is expected to run in the $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles at Philadelphia Park Sept. 20. When or where they would meet again is anyone's guess.
“First things first, and right now, we have to worry about the Gazelle,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to Music Note’s trainer, Saeed bin Suroor. “This race and the Cotillion are the last of the major races for 3-year-old fillies. Saeed has suggested that the Breeders’ Cup (grade I Ladies Classic, at Santa Anita Oct. 24) would be the possible direction for Music Note, but that will be a very tough race. Not only will she be facing older horses for the first time but the older horses she will be facing will be Zenyatta, Ginger Punch and Hystericalady. And they will be racing on a surface that no one is quite sure of what to expect.
“So, we’re looking at the Gazelle as a very important race. We don’t know Proud Spell’s schedule after the Cotillion. Music Note has won some important races and the Gazelle is also an important race and probably her last time against three-year-old fillies.”
At Saratoga, Music Note trained on the Polytrack surface at the Greentree Training Center. Back at Belmont Park, she put in a dazzling five-furlong work on Monday of :59.84.
Stonerside Stable’s Country Star won both of her grade I races last year on synthetic surfaces. She prepped for the Gazelle with a half-length victory at a mile on Saratoga’s inner turf course. Trained by Bobby Frankel, she will carry 119 pounds.
Awesome I Am will be be trying the Gazelle distance for the first time for trainer John Terranova and Sovereign Stable.
“Well, we’re going shark fishing,” said Terranova. “Music Note is the big shark in there, and she certainly is a standout. But my filly is training fantastic and she fits with the others in this field. So, we’re going sharking and hopefully, we’ll get lucky.”
The Awesome Again filly ran third in the Serena’s Song at Monmouth Park on July 13, beaten a half length at one mile and 70 yards..
Lael Stable’s Hamsa, last of four in the Mother Goose, and lightly raced Mega complete the field.
$250,000 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Awesome I Am (FL), 115, Rajiv Maragh
2. Hamsa (KY), 115, Eibar Coa
3. Country Star (KY), 119, John R. Velazquez
4. Mega (KY), 115, Garrett K. Gomez
5. Music Note (KY), 122, Javier Castellano