October 27, 2020

Dunbar Road leads select cast in Beldame

Dunbar Road and jockey Jose Ortiz win the Mother Goose Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on June 29, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Elsa Lorieul

Last seen landing the July 11 Delaware H. (G2), Dunbar Road returns to her happy hunting ground of Belmont Park for Sunday’s $150,000 Beldame Stakes (G2). The 1 1/8-mile, one-turn affair is not part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, but still serves as a significant stepping stone to the Nov. 7 Distaff (G1) at Keeneland.

The undercard stakes, the $150,000 Miss Grillo Stakes (G2) and $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes (G3), also will offer Breeders’ Cup clues.

Beldame

Dunbar Road is 2-for-2 at Big Sandy, both coming during her sophomore campaign in 2019, including her breakout score in the Mother Goose (G2). The Chad Brown filly went on to a convincing victory in the Alabama (G1) over Point of Honor, putting her in the discussion for divisional leadership. But her third in the Spinster (G1) and fifth in the Distaff at Santa Anita ended that speculation.

Resuming as the class of the field in the May 23 Shawnee at Churchill Downs, Dunbar Road regained the winning touch and promptly followed up in Delaware Park’s signature race. The daughter of Quality Road seeks to go a perfect 3-for-3 in 2020, and at Belmont too. Jose Ortiz rides Dunbar Road, who could be part of a banner day for owner Peter Brant, not just in New York but in Paris, if his Sottsass can jump up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).

Point of Honor has not won since last year’s Black-Eyed Susan (G2), but the Curlin filly has turned in a series of placings, notably a photo-finish loss in the June 13 Ogden Phipps (G1) at this track. The George Weaver pupil bookended that effort with thirds in the Apple Blossom (G1) and Personal Ensign (G1), and keeps Javier Castellano aboard.

Only three others signed on for the Beldame. Monmouth aficionado Horologist brings a nifty formline through her third to champion Monomoy Girl in the La Troienne (G1), and she’s been adept in a one-turn configuration at both Laurel and Gulfstream in the past. The pace promises to come from rail-drawn Letruska, the Mexican star who wired the Shuvee (G3) last out. Nonna Madeline, a subpar eighth in the Shuvee, was previously successful in the Summer Colony. But she was runner-up to Letruska twice earlier this season and needs to turn the tables.

Miss Grillo

One race earlier, Plum Ali puts her unbeaten record on the line in the Miss Grillo for 2-year-old fillies on turf. Trained by Christophe Clement, the Saratoga debut winner ventured to Kentucky Downs to win a stakes handily. Now the First Samurai filly looks to advance her claims for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Brown, an eight-time Miss Grillo winner, counters with Editor at Large and Freedomofthepress who were also unveiled at the Spa. Brant’s Editor at Large, an Irish-bred by Lope de Vega like Brown’s 2018 heroine Newspaperofrecord, won at first asking. Klaravich Stables’ Freedomofthepress, from the first crop of Mshawish, was second to blueblood Lovestruck.

Godolphin’s homebred Lovestruck, a Tapit half-sister to Scat Daddy, was imposing in that debut score for Bill Mott. So was the Brad Cox-trained Caldee, who crushed them on the front end. Also coming off Saratoga wins, on dirt, are Mashnee Girl and the main track-only Fifth Risk.

Graham Motion is the only trainer to interrupt Brown’s domination of this race in recent years, and his Batyah wheels back after an eye-catching rally in her debut here on the Widener course. The Pioneerof the Nile filly will try to improve on half-sister Stellar Agent’s third in the 2018 edition, and the added ground of this 1 1/16-mile test on the inner turf should play to her strengths.

Director’s Cut is the lone entrant, aside from Plum Ali, with stakes experience as the runner-up in the Sharp Susan at Gulfstream. Privately acquired by Gary Barber, the daughter of freshman sire Exaggerator makes her first start for Mark Casse here.

Belmont Turf Sprint

The Brant/Brown tandem takes a shot in the Belmont Turf Sprint, where Fog of War hopes that shortening up will dispel the fog that’s shrouded his career. An outstanding juvenile when downing War of Will in the 2018 Summer (G1), the War Front colt went winless in a truncated 2019 campaign, and showed little in his recent comeback from a year-long layoff.

Other  contenders in the 6 furlong-dash on the Widener are Troy (G3) fourth Chewing Gum; the top two from the Lucky Coin, Battle Station and Pulsate; the surging Archidust, winner of two straight stakes at Monmouth; Grade 1 veteran Wet Your Whistle; and recent allowance winners Backtohisroots and Holiday Stone.