December 4, 2020

Belmont: Horologist, Plum Ali, Wet Your Whistle romp in graded stakes

Horologist winning the Beldame (G2) at Belmont Park - Coglianese Photography/NYRA
Horologist winning the Beldame (G2) at Belmont Park - Coglianese Photography/NYRA

In the past, Horologist has given the impression of being a Monmouth Park specialist, scoring five of her first six victories over the New Jersey oval. But the 4-year-old daughter of Gemologist refused to be pigeonholed in Sunday’s $150,000 Beldame (G2) at Belmont Park, outrunning expectations to secure the biggest win of her career.

Racing 1 1/8 miles, Horologist broke quickly in a small field, but was beaten to the lead by aggressive front runner Letruska. While the latter carved out increasingly fast fractions of :23.10, :45.52, and 1:09.05, Horologist patiently bided her time in second place, trailing by seven lengths with just 3 furlongs remaining.

But as the field spun into the stretch, Horologist advanced boldly under jockey Junior Alvarado. Pouncing to the front, Horologist stayed on strongly down the lane to defeat the rail-rallying Point of Honor by three lengths, with even-money favorite Dunbar Road and Letruska trailing a strung-out field.

“I knew she was in a nice rhythm the whole way and I waited until the five-sixteenths just to check a little and see where she was,” said Alvarado. “When I tapped her on the shoulder and she lowered her head instead of picking it up, I wasn’t sure how much I had but I wanted to use what I had to open up. It just worked out today.”

Winning trainer Bill Mott indicated Horologist was unlikely to contest the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland. Racing for the partnership of There’s A Chance Stable, Parkland Thoroughbreds, Medagllion Racing, and Abbondanza Racing, the New Jersey-bred filly isn’t currently eligible to the Breeders’ Cup and would have to be supplemented for a hefty fee.

A likelier candidate for the Breeders’ Cup is the 2-year-old Plum Ali, who brought her record to a perfect 3-for-3 with a win under Jose Ortiz in the $150,000 Miss Grillo (G2) racing 1 1/16 miles on turf. Previously victorious in the Juvenile Fillies S. at Kentucky Downs, the daughter of First Samurai rallied confidently from behind fractions of :24.81, :48.06, and 1:11.38 to defeat pacesetter Caldee by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:42.03. Editor At Large, Mashnee Girl, and Director’s Cut trailed the compact field.

“She’s a very nice filly,” said winning trainer Christophe Clement, who conditions Plum Ali on behalf of Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Bethlehem Stables. “She’s won in different scenarios, different tracks, and different jockeys. That’s what good horses do. They face the challenge and they win. It’s very exciting. It’s nice when they keep facing these things and win.”

The Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) looms as a logical target for Plum Ali. “Just like anything else, I’ll only go to the Breeders’ Cup if she’s training great and doing great,” added Clement. “I’m very happy. She’s done everything right.”

Sunday’s graded stakes action concluded with the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint (G3), a 6-furlong stepping stone toward the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). The race took a strange twist when second choice Backtohisroots stumbled at the start and unseated jockey Jose Lezcano; the riderless runner proceeded to run professionally around the course and cross the finish line in front.

But this unusual occurrence made no difference to Wet Your Whistle, who led the official field at every call to win convincingly under Jose Ortiz. In fact, it may have helped him. Early fractions of :22.47 and :45.15 were modest over the firm turf course, in part because the loose runner discouraged other potential pace players from getting aggressive. This left Wet Your Whistle with ample energy to sprint the final quarter-mile in :22.72 and score by 3 1/4 lengths.

Owned by David W. Palmer, Wet Your Whistle stopped the clock in 1:07.87. Chewing Gum, Archidust, Fog of War, Holiday Stone, Battle Station, and Big Wonder followed him home.

“He was doing it very nicely the first half-mile, he was just on the beat,” remarked Ortiz. “Past the quarter pole, I asked him to go and had the loose horse right next to me and he just engaged with him. He started running. I think 1:07 and 4 is pretty fast for this kind of track. It’s been a little heavy all day.”

Winner of the 2019 Highlander (G1) at Woodbine, Wet Your Whistle entered the Belmont Turf Sprint off a sixth-place effort in the Laurel Dash S., a race in which Wet Your Whistle struggled over a damp turf course.

“He had been training well. When I ran him last time the turf was soft, and he just didn’t enjoy it at all,” said winning trainer Michael Trombetta. “He jumped on the bridle and had a little bit of a target. Jose took advantage of the situation.”

Trombetta indicated Wet Your Whistle would be considered for the Breeders’ Cup.

“I’ll have to talk to the owner and see what’s involved. In these kinds of races, especially the turf sprinters, it’s a select group that all run against each other and all beat each other here and there,” Trombetta said. “If you’re going to take a chance, these are the kind of horses to do it with.”