June 23, 2024

Orbolution the top draw in Miss Grillo

Orbolution captures the P. G. Johnson Stakes under jockey John Velazquez on August 31, 2017, at Saratoga (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

A 4 3/4-length victory in the P. G. Johnson Stakes on August 31 at Saratoga should see Orbolution go off the favorite in Sunday’s $200,000 Miss Grillo Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park.

The 1 1/16-mile turf affair attracted nine juvenile fillies, and while not part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re” series it could still send some runners to line up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Del Mar on November 3.

Orbolution would be a prime candidate if she scores in this spot for trainer Todd Pletcher. The dark bay daughter of 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Orb is unbeaten in two grass starts. She actually began her career on the main track at Keeneland in April, finishing third while going 4 1/2 furlongs, and attempted a surface switch next out at Belmont Park. However, that turf maiden ended up being rained off to the sloppy, sealed dirt, and Orbolution once again filled the show spot.

Finally getting the change to try grass, the Kentucky-bred miss pulled clear in her third race for a 2 1/2-length victory at Saratoga on July 23. She was sent off the 3-5 favorite in the P. G. Johnson off that effort and didn’t disappoint. John Velazquez has been aboard for all of Orbolution’s races thus far and retains the mount on Sunday.

“I thought she was very impressive in there (P. G. Johnson),” Pletcher said. “She displayed a good turn of foot and seems like both her efforts on the grass have been impressive and what we were hoping for.

“She’s doing well,” he added. “Everything’s been smooth since the P. G. Johnson. We’ve been targeting this race since then. It seems like she’s maintained form and doing well.”

Among those looking to derail Orbolution’s chances in the Miss Grillo are Best Performance and Southampton Way.

Best Performance broke her maiden at first asking over the main track at Belmont Park on May 17, and proceeded to run second in the Astoria Stakes on that same surface June 8. Shipping to Saratoga, the Christophe Clement trainee once again finished second, this time in the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) on opening day, before heading south. Best Performance arrived at Kentucky Downs and was runner-up in the Juvenile Fillies Stakes in her turf debut last out on September 6. The Broken Vow filly gets Joel Rosario in the saddle for her second try on grass.

“She’s been a pleasant addition since she came in,” Clement said. “She won her maiden in May, she’s been placed twice in two different stakes, and I think she ran a great race the other day at Kentucky Downs on the turf, softer turf. I think she’d be better on firmer turf. She looks good. Let’s go for it.

“I was always going to keep her on dirt, but she had a very good breeze one day on the grass (:51.21 on August 7) for me in Saratoga on firm turf, and I just told the owner we should try her on the grass,” Clement added. “I thought the race at Kentucky Downs was a nice race, and we can always bring her back to race on dirt, we’ll see what happens.”

Southampton Way will be making her turf bow in this spot off a runner-up finish in the Arlington-Washington Lassie over the synthetic track at Arlington Park on September 9. The Into Mischief filly also took a trip to Saratoga for a second-place run against graded rivals, this time in the Adirondack Stakes (G2) on August 12, and reunites with Ricardo Santana Jr. in this spot.

Bramble Queen and Significant Form face winners for the first time here, the former off a maiden claiming score at Delaware Park while making her turf debut and the latter following career-opening triumph over Saratoga’s grass.

Completing the Miss Grillo field are Life Time Citizen, sixth in the P. G. Johnson last out; Codrington, a turf maiden winner at Saratoga in her fourth career try on August 25; Indy Union, seeking a first victory while making her third lifetime start; and French-bred Africa, who gets Lasix added while making her U.S. bow in this spot for trainer Chad Brown.

Earlier on Belmont’s Sunday card, Madefromlucky will go for his second straight stakes win in the $200,000 Temperence Hill Invitational against five rivals. The Lookin at Lucky five-year-old dominated the Greenwood Cup (G3) by 12 lengths last out on September 4 at Parx Racing, and brings Javier Castellano along for the ride in this 1 5/8-mile main track event.