Better Lucky Heads Noble Damsel After Respite
Grade I winner Better Lucky heads a six-horse field in the $200,000 Noble Damsel Stakes (gr. IIIT) Sept. 14 at Belmont Park, looking to get back on track after a brief respite following a runner-up finish in the Longines Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT) in Elmont, N.Y.
Better Lucky carries a 123-pound highweight assignment in the one-mile turf event after a three-month freshening. She was second in the Just a Game June 9 by half a length to Stephanie's Kitten with a four-wide trip on yielding ground throughout.
Trainer Tom Albertrani did not start Better Lucky during the summer meeting at Saratoga Race Course and she has raced just one other time in 2013 for Godolphin Racing, with a solid third in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland earlier this spring.
The 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly earned her grade I status with a 35-1 upset in the Matriarch (gr. IT) at Betfair Hollywood Park at the end of last year. Javier Castellano rides from post 3.
Emory Hamilton's grade II winner Hungry Island also contested the Just a Game. She was third in that event and came back Aug. 24 with a fourth in the Ketel One Ballston Spa Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. Fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez rides the 5-year-old More Than Ready mare from the outside; she carries 118.
Edward Cox's Naples Bay took the Noble Damsel in 2012. The 5-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway has not won since then for trainer Christophe Clement, but turned in a good runner-up effort in the July 28 Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park after breaking a bit slowly in the 1 1/8-mile test. Departing the rail, Garrett Gomez has the mount.
Helen Alexander, Dorothy Matz, and Helen Groves' Assateague seems to be rounding into form nicely for trainer Michael Matz, and could be primed to take home her first graded score in this event. Assateague, a 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic filly, won the Aug. 3 De La Rose Stakes by half a length over grade III winner Ruthenia going a mile on the inner turf at the Spa. She preceded that victory with a wire-to-wire June 26 allowance score at Belmont. Luis Saez will be in the irons from post 2 as part of a 120-pound assignment.
Trainer Chad Brown sends Martin Schwartz's Laugh Out Loud to her third U.S. start after a third-place finish in the De La Rose. The 4-year-old Clodovil runner was sixth in the Just a Game in her North American debut over the yielding Belmont ground; she was a group II winner in France last year.
Alto Racing's Peace Preserver, a 4-year-old War Front filly whose last win for trainer Todd Pletcher dates back to the Oct. 8 Pebbles Stakes at Belmont last season, completes the field.
$200,000 Noble Damsel Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 8, approximate post 4:45 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares 3YOs & Up, one mile (turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Naples Bay (KY), G.K. Gomez, 118, C Clement
2. Assateague (KY), L. Saez, 120, M R Matz
3. Better Lucky (KY), J. Castellano, 123, T Albertrani
4. Laugh Out Loud (GB), E.S. Prado, 118, C C Brown
5. Peace Preserver (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 118, T A Pletcher
6. Hungry Island (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 118, C R McGaughey III
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