by Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Todd Pletcher, fresh off winning the Sept. 30 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park with English Channel, came back and won the next race, the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO), with Unbridled Belle. Pletcher couldn’t just settle for the win in the Beldame; he also saddled the runner-up, Indian Vale.
Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Unbridled Belle suffered a tough trip, but was still able to get up in time to post a head win over stablemate Indian Vale, who had worked hard on the front end as part of the early pace.
Pletcher trains Unbridled Belle, a daughter of Broken Vow, for Team Valor Stables. Indian Vale is owned by Eugene Melnyk.
Ginger Punch, the even-money favorite, was a disappointing third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up. It was Ginger Punch’s first loss since June, when she was second in the Ogden Phipps Handicap. She came into the Beldame with consecutive wins in the Ruffian, Go for Wand, and First Flight.
From the rail, Indian Vale, with John Velazquez aboard, pressed the pace set by Ice Cool Kitty through fractions of 24.44 seconds, 47.48, and 1:11.29.
Unbridled Belle, who was never far out of it, was eager to run with three furlongs remaining but was blocked.
“She was feeling so good, I was worried she would clip heels,” Dominguez said. “I was able to get outside and was able to get her momentum going again. Sometimes a horse as big as she is will lose its momentum, but she kept going all the way down the stretch.”
The final time over a fast track was 1:48.63. The winner returned $15.40.
Balance, Mo Cuishle, Miss Shop and Ice Cool Kitty completed the order of finish. Sugar Shake was scratched.
Unbridled Belle, who became a grade I winner in the $600,000 Beldame, also earned an automatic berth to the $2-million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park Oct. 27. Pletcher said Unbridled Belle and Indian Vale would represent him in the Distaff, as well as Fitz Dixon Cotillion runner-up, Octave.
Pletcher didn’t really have any anxious moments in deep stretch of the Beldame because it was just a question as to which of his horses would win.
“Some ways it’s great because you know you are going to win, but you kind of feel bad for the one that doesn’t win. It’s a tough loss for (Indian Vale). On the flip side, (Unbridled Belle) ran a great race,” he said.
It was Pletcher’s third consecutive Beldame win. He also won the race with champions Ashado (2005) and Fleet Indian (2006).