Saturday’s $400,000 Sands Point (G2) at Belmont Park appears an important race for the likely betting favorites Uni and La Coronel, who will be joined by seven other three-year-old fillies in the 1 1/8-mile grass test.
For the Chad Brown-trained Uni, the Sands Point marks her third attempt to win stateside following her importation from France. The More Than Ready filly was third to stablemate New Money Honey in the Belmont Oaks (G1), and last time closed for second as the favorite in the Lake Placid (G2) at Saratoga.
La Coronel, the divisional leader this spring following back-to-back wins in the Appalachian (G3) and Edgewood (G3), made a jaunt to Royal Ascot in June, finishing fifth of seven in the Coronation (G1). However, the Mark Casse trainee came up flat in the Lake Placid, failing to show a stretch kick as strong as either the winning Proctor’s Ledge or Uni.
“Going into the Lake Placid, we were a little bit concerned that we didn’t have her 100 percent cranked. I think our fears were justified,” Casse said. “Probably she needed the race and more importantly she really let the paddock overwhelm her a little bit over at Saratoga. We thought she got worked up.
“She is going to school the next two days, get acclimated there, and should run much better on Saturday,” he said.
A win by either filly would give them momentum for upcoming races such as the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland.
Brown also saddles Fifty Five, who beat La Coronel by a neck in the Florida Oaks (G3) in March when trained by Tom Bush. Since her arrival in the Brown stable, she’s run third in the $100,000 Winter Memories, second in the Wonder Again (G3) to New Money Honey, and third in the Lake George (G3) to Proctor’s Ledge.
The Brown triumvirate is completed by Inflexibility, who comes off a half-lengths score in the Wonder Where for Canadian-breds at Woodbine on the turf. That followed thirds to the filly Holy Helena in the Woodbine Oaks and Queen’s Plate.
The lone European challenger is Vue Fantastique, who adds Lasix after dismal tries in two of her past three starts. However, the filly captured the Prix de Psyche (G3) at Deauville two back and earlier this year placed in the Prix Saint-Alary (G1).
Also in the lineup are recent Pucker Up (G3) vixen Fault and Saratoga allowance scorer Chastise. The pace of the Sands Point should be provided by Empressof the Nile, a recent maiden winner at Saratoga in her seventh start, and from Defiant Honor, who enters off a victory in the restricted $100,000 Riskaverse.