Meridiana seeks her fourth consecutive victory when she faces seven foes in Saturday's $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT) over Belmont Park's Widener Turf Course. Owned by Jon Kelly, Meridiana will seek to give her trainer, Christophe Clemente, his fourth triumph in the Sheepshead Bay. The French conditioner took last year's edition with Mariensky.
Showing her versatility, Meridiana won both the Orchid Handicap (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park and the Bewitch (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland in her last two outings. In doing so, she defeated five of her seven Sheepshead Bay rivals. "She looks well and she's training well," noted Clemente. "It looks like she has a nice career ahead of her."
After being defeated by Meridiana in the Orchid, Moscow Burning returned to California, and won a Cal-bred stakes on the grass. Trainer Jim Cassidy will try to get his charge her first stakes victory in the Sheepshead Bay. Cassidy sees his filly on or close to the lead on Saturday. "I really want to turn the tables on Meridiana," he said.
Miss Hellie also found herself behind the favorite in the Orchid and the Bewitch, and the late-runner hopes for a hot pace upfront at Belmont. She is conditioned by Shug McGaughey, who will enter racing's Hall of Fame this summer.
Spice Island hopes to regain her form from late last year, when she triumphed in three consecutive races before suffering a spill in the La Prevoyante at Calder. She is coming off a solid effort against males at Churchill Downs last month, when she was beaten less than a length by multiple graded stakes winner Senor Swinger.
The field for the Sheepshead Bay, in post position order with jockeys and weights:
1) Primetimevalentine (Robert Low, 113)
2) Savedbythelight (John Velazquez, 115)
3) Spice Island (Jerry Bailey, 119)
4) Alternate (Cornelio Velasquez, 116)
5) Miss Hellie (Jose Santos, 113)
6) Andover Lady (Richard Migliore, 112)
7) Moscow Burning (Mike Smith, 113)
8) Meridiana (Edgar Prado, 119)