Juddmonte Farm's' Sightseek romped to her fourth consecutive grade I victory in Saturday's $750,000 Beldame for fillies and mares at Belmont Park, setting the stage for a possible showdown with Azeri in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.
With his 23rd grade I victory of the year, trainer Bobby Frankel set the North American record with Sightseek's victory. Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien also won 23 grade or group I races in a year.
The chestnut won the 1 1/18-mile Beldame under a hand ride from Jerry Bailey in 1:49 1/5, finishing 4 1/2 lengths in front of Bird Town. Buy the Sport was third, 4 3/4 lengths farther back.
"This one's ready; I hope the other one (Azeri) is," said Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, after he kept Sightseek wide and out of trouble and let her coast to victory before 7,591. "The only way I envisioned getting beat is if she was hopelessly trapped at the eighth-pole. I wanted to do enough early, where I could spread the field out and get her outside. Otherwise, everyone clusters over and you can't get her back or out because the pace is slow. I did enough early to spread the race out and get her outside."
With the victory, Frankel snapped the tie he had with fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who saddled 22 Grade 1 winners in 1987.
"It feels like it did the same time yesterday, but it's exciting," Frankel said. "It just hasn't sunk in yet. I thought she ran good, but I know she can run even better than that. I wanted to get away with this race without pushing her too hard. She's just a great filly. (Bailey) checked a little bit and they were going slow, but I think he rode her like he thought she was much the best. He didn't want to get into any trouble with her.
"I'm not going to say that I want to see Azeri run against her. I always like to see the easiest race possible. Azeri is a great filly. She carried a lot of weight and she didn't break good the other day, and the race didn't really set up for her. It's probably going to be the best race on the (Breeders' Cup) card, if they all show up.
"I thought that if (Sightseek) was six lengths the best (today) she would win by three. So, she was nine lengths the best, and won by five. I'll ship the Breeders' Cup horses out there (to Santa Anita) some time this coming week."
Sightseek was fourth early while in hand on the outside as Bird Town carved out an opening quarter mile in :24 2/5 and the half in :47 4/5 and six furlongs in 1:12 2/5. Bailey took Sightseek off the rail with a four-wide move on the turn and as the field cleared away in the stretch, the decision came down to Sightseek and Bird Town, ridden by Aaron Gryder. Bailey shook the reigns at the 4-year-old Distant View filly and she drew off easily in the closing furlong.
Sightseek, who hadn't been postward since winning the Go For Wand (gr. I) at Saratoga July 27, improved to three-for-three on the Belmont dirt. She upped her career mark to eight wins and four seconds in 12 starts while earning $450,000. She went way over the $1 million mark in career earnings. She now stands at $1,319,866.
She is winless in three starts at Santa Anita.
The Beldame afforded trainer Nick Zito a forum to campaign Bird Town for the 3-year-old filly championship. Bird Town won the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn (both gr. I) this year.
"I can't be more thrilled," Zito said. "I think we have the best three-year-old filly in America and in this race. She proved it. We came to run against Sightseek, and I don't care what anybody tells me, Bird Town is the best three-year-old filly right now. We put up a good fight and that's all I cared about. Sightseek looks like something special."
The heavy 1-5 favorite, Sightseek paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Bird Town returned $4 and $2.10. Buy the Sport, ridden by Corey Nakatani, paid $2.10 to show. The $2 exacta was worth $11.20.
Smok'n Frolic was fourth, with Summer Colony, Island Fashion and Passing Shot trailing.