Chester and Mary Broman's multiple graded stakes winner Highway Star returns to Belmont Park to headline a six-horse field Sept. 24 in the 6 1/2-furlong Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) for older fillies and mares.
The $300,000 Gallant Bloom is one of three stakes races on the day, including a pair for New York-breds: the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole Stakes and the $125,000 John Hettinger Stakes.
It's a day for state-breds for sure as three of the Gallant Bloom runners were bred in the Empire State.
Highway Star, a 4-year-old state-bred daughter of Girolamo, has finished on the board in her last four starts—all graded stakes appearances—and is coming off a narrow head defeat to By the Moon in the Ketel One Ballerina Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course last month.
Highway Star returns to Big Sandy for the first time since running third in the June 10 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1). Proficient at seven furlongs and a mile, this will be her first touting at the trip.
"She's been doing great and she's always been in good shape, so all is well," trainer Rodrigo Ubillo said. "She likes to win. She likes her job. She's consistent and always brings her 'A' game to every race. It's nice to have her, for sure."
Jockey Angel Arroyo, who has been aboard for all of Highway Star's stakes wins, will have the return call from post 1 with the highweight of 121 pounds. She spots anywhere from one to 11 pounds.
"If you ask which track she prefers, it's Belmont, she trains well here and is happy," Ubillo said. "It doesn't matter if they go fast or slow. She adjusts to the pace and pretty much the jockey doesn't have to do anything. She's smart and puts herself in the race."
Three Chimneys Farm's Carina Mia has registered Beyer Speed Figures of 90 or better in each of her last four starts, including consecutive 92 ratings for winning the Shine Again Stakes Aug. 2 and rallying for third behind Highway Star and By the Moon in the Ballerina.
A 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon , Carina Mia is looking to build on a 2016 campaign in which she won the Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont and competed in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), finishing ninth at Santa Anita Park. Her current campaign saw her transferred from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott to Chad Brown. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who was aboard for her last two starts, will depart from post 3 carrying 120 pounds.
Lucy N Ethel will look to make her first start in 11 months, which was a 12th-place finish in the Lexus Raven Run Stakes (G2) at Keeneland last October. The 4-year-old has been training at Saratoga, most notably breezing in company with Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRABets (G1) winner Tapwrit.
The Todd Pletcher trainee will be making her Belmont debut. Lucy N Ethel won the first three starts of her career in a seven-week stretch but missed eight months due to an ankle chip following her Old Hat Stakes (G3) victory in January 2016 at Gulfstream Park. She made a triumphant comeback to win the Prioress Stakes (G2) that September at Saratoga.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will be in the irons from post 6 carrying 116 pounds.
Following back-to-back runner-up efforts, fellow New York-bred Quezon will look to notch her first graded stakes win in breaking from post 4 carrying 114 pounds. The 5-year-old Tiz Wonderful mare was third in the Vagrancy Handicap (G3) May 5 and sixth in the Bed o' Roses Invitational Sakes (G3), both at Belmont Park. Joel Rosario will ride for trainer Robert Ribaudo.
New York-bred Absatootly, a two-time stakes winner, drew post 5 for trainer Charlton Baker. Joe Bravo will ride at 112 pounds.
Friend of Liberty, a 3-year-old filly, trained by Michelle Nevin, will have the services of jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., carrying 110 pounds.