Umpateedle, who posted a gut-wrenching victory in the Gallant Bloom (gr. II) Oct. 9, goes for her third straight stakes victory Sunday in the $150,000 First Flight Handicap (gr. II) on the closing day of Belmont Park's fall meet.
The First Flight – for fillies and mares at seven furlongs – is one of three graded stakes on the Belmont closing card. Also included are the $150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, and the $100,000 Tempted (gr. III) for 2-year-old fillies going one mile.
The Mark Shuman-trained Umpateedle was the longest shot on the board at 10-1 in the 6 1/2-furlong Gallant Bloom when she eked out a nose win over Smokey Glacken in an intense stretch duel.
The win was especially gratifying for Shuman, who told the mare's owner, Mike Gill, to turn down a $200,000 bid for her over the winter.
"People had been looking at her as a broodmare prospect, but I told Mike I could win more money than what he was offered by racing her this year," Shuman said.
He's right. Umpateedle, a mare by Suave Prospect, has banked more than $330,000 in 2005, boosting her career earnings to nearly three quarters of a million dollars. She's also added a few trophies to Gill's collection after winning a pair of stakes races at Delaware Park before the Gallant Bloom. Now that she's won 17 races and a grade II, she's worth more than the $200,000 Gill was offered over the winter.
"She's just come into her own," Shuman said. "I thought we could win a few allowance races and a couple of minor stakes with her this year if we were lucky, but she's exceeded our expectations. She came out of the race great and is going as good as ever."
Fifth Overture has won her last four starts – two of them stakes – comfortably at Woodbine. She'll look to make it five on Sunday when she ships into town for Woodbine-based trainer Eric Coatrieux.
On paper, Fifth Overture was particularly impressive in the Seaway (Can-III), stalking in third early before she kicked in and whipped Silver Bird and La Trillium by three widening lengths.
"The time's right to shoot for a grade two," Coatrieux said. "She couldn't be doing any better."
Smokey Glacken was very game in the Gallant Bloom, missing the win by a whisker. She stretches her distance limitations – six furlongs is her best game. Smokey Glacken goes out for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. $150,000 First Flight (gr. II), fillies & mares 3 & up, 7 furlongs
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Areek, Mark Hennig, Javier Castellano, 116
2. Smokey Glacken, Jimmy Jerkens, John Velazquez, 116
3. Umpateedle, Mark Shuman, Aaron Gryder, 117
4. Habiboo, Amy Tarrant, Joe Bravo, 113
5. Lilah, Allen Jerkens, Shannon Uske, 114
6. Great Intentions, Mike Hushion, Edgar Prado, 114
7. Fifth Overture, Eric Coatrieux, Robert Landry, 115
8. Travelator, Stanley Hough, Eibar Coa, 114