Sightseek to Battle Take Charge Lady

(from track report)
Juddmonte Farms' Sightseek, a filly who always fires, is the likely favorite in Saturday's $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park, but she'll have to beat an extremely tough if compact field.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, the four-year-old is 5-for-9 lifetime with four runner-up finishes. When she has settled for minor awards, the sister of multiple stakes winner Tates Creek has never been beaten more than two lengths.

Three rivals – Mandy's Gold, Smok 'n Frolic and Take Charge Lady – who have won a combined 20 stakes will oppose her in the 1 1/16-mile test.

Winning all four starts on dirt last year including the Top Flight (gr. II), Sightseek disappointed as the odds-on favorite twice earlier this season at Santa Anita. Her third California start also resulted in a loss, but she was not favored.

Frankel shipped Sightseek out of California and she won the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs impressively by 4 ½ lengths.

"She just got outrun in those races in California," Frankel said. "I think she's better right now."

Sightseek has never been tested on a wet track, but was impressive in her lone start over the Belmont strip, trouncing an overmatched allowance field by 12 lengths last fall.

"Rain until Sunday," Frankel said, keeping a close eye on The Weather Channel. "I think she likes the tracks out here better, at least when they're dry anyway."

Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who teamed up with Frankel and Juddmonte to win the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with Empire Maker, will be aboard Sightseek for the eighth time.

Select Stable's Take Charge Lady will be shooting for her third grade I victory on Saturday. In her only start this year, she set the pace in Oaklawn's Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), but yielded late to defending Horse of the Year Azeri. A foot bruise suffered in late April has affected her campaign. The injury forced her to miss the Louisville Breeders' Cup and the Fleur de Lis.

"It has been a long process," said trainer Ken McPeek. "It was a bad bruise, and then it abscessed, so we had to wait. I'm pleased with everything now and she's doing good."

Take Charge Lady has run well off layoffs in the past. She finished second behind a sharp Imperial Gesture in last year's Gazelle, and nearly beat Azeri off a four-month break.

"She runs good off the layoff and she likes the mud," McPeek said.

Steeplechase Farm's Mandy's Gold was not far behind Azeri and Take Charge Lady in the Apple Blossom, beaten 3 ½ lengths in third. She has won seven stakes, including the Ruffian (gr. I) last fall.

Towards the end of last year, the daughter of Gilded Time began to fall off form. She finished a distant fifth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) and bled a bit in her fourth-place Top Flight run. Trainer Michael Gorham gave Mandy's Gold some down time and she came back to win at Gulfstream.

Mandy's Gold was then sent to Oaklawn where she ran third as the 2-5 favorite in the Oaklawn Park Breeders' Cup as a prep for the Apple Blossom.

"She should have won her first race at Oaklawn," Gorham said. "She jumped a shadow at the three-eighths pole and lost her momentum. By the time she got going again, they were by her."

Most recently, Mandy's Gold finished with a late surge to run down Summer Colony at the wire of the Pimlico Distaff Handicap (gr. III). Trapped inside, Gorham was worried his star filly would not get a chance to run.

"She's not at her best inside," said Gorham before he knew Mandy's Gold drew the rail for the Ogden Phipps. "She likes to be outside and in the clear. When she finally got some room, she finished strong and just got up."

Dogwood Stable's Smok'n Frolic, a six-time stakes winner, will try for her first Grade I Saturday. Since last summer, she has been very consistent running first or second in six starts. Last time out in the Shuvee (gr. II), she vied for the lead with You while that rival's stablemate, Wild Spirit, sat a perfect trip behind the speed and drew clear in the stretch.

Smok'n Frolic, Take Charge Lady and Sightseek have similar running styles. All like to be on or near the lead, which should make for an exciting race throughout.

Shug McGaughey, long-time trainer for the Phipps family, sends out Stuart Janney's Lady Liberty with Jose Santos aboard.

$300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile)
PP. Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Wgt.
1. Mandy's Gold , Michael Gorham, Richard Migliore, 118
2. Sightseek, Bobby Frankel, Jerry Bailey, 118
3. Take Charge Lady, Ken McPeek, Edgar Prado, 119
4. Lady Liberty, Shug McGaughey, Jose Santos, 112
5. Smok'n Frolic, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 118