December 6, 2021

Royal Flag among challengers to Horologist in Beldame

Royal Flag collars Horologist in the Shuvee Stakes (Photo by Susie Raisher/Coglianese Photos)

Three graded stakes are slated at Belmont Park on Sunday – the $250,000 Beldame (G2), a stepping stone to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1); the $150,000 Futurity (G3), a “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2); and the Knickerbocker (G3), which can have a tenuous relationship with the Mile (G1).

Beldame (G2) – Race 6 (3:15 p.m. ET)

Defending champion Horologist enters in good form, after romping wire-to-wire in the Aug. 22 Summer Colony S. at Saratoga. But the Bill Mott mare must overcome a couple of rivals who’ve beaten her this season, Royal Flag and Spice Is Nice, at the 1 1/8-mile trip.

Royal Flag collared Horologist in the July 25 Shuvee (G3) at the Spa. The Chad Brown blueblood has since placed an excellent third to division leader Letruska and Bonny South in the Aug. 28 Personal Ensign (G1). At the top of her game now, Royal Flag is drawn on the outside with Joel Rosario.

Spice Is Nice’s victory came earlier, in the May 14 Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3), with Horologist fourth. Sidelined following her own subpar fifth in the June 26 Fleur de Lis (G2), Spice Is Nice typically fires fresh for Todd Pletcher. Sophomore stablemate Zaajel is feast-or-famine, but her signature win came at this track in the June 26 Mother Goose (G2).

Miss Marissa, who upset Bonny South in last fall’s delayed Black-Eyed Susan (G2), repeated the feat with a front-running coup in the July 10 Delaware H. (G2). Her forward style backfired when trying to chase Letruska in the Personal Ensign, and she paid the price in a remote eighth. In a more typical scenario on Sunday, trainer Jim Ryerson hopes for a rebound.

The remaining three entrants were all well behind Horologist in the Summer Colony. Runner-up Gold Spirit has the best chance to turn the tables, since she had been a close fourth in the Shuvee in her U.S. premiere for Brown. So Darn Hot, a distant third in the Summer Colony, relies on her affinity for Belmont. Thankful, eased after a rough start in the Summer Colony, turned the page with an allowance second last out, but remains Pletcher’s third-string here.

Futurity (G3) – Race 5 (2:43 p.m. ET)

Wesley Ward fillies Chi Town Lady and Poppy Flower, both entered in Saturday’s Matron (G3), are also engaged against the boys in the Futurity over the same six-furlong trip on the inner turf. Chi Town Lady is a perfect 2-for-2 after overcoming a stumbling start in the Aug. 18 Bolton Landing S. at Saratoga, where she overhauled Poppy Flower. In the interim, Poppy Flower came back to finish third in the Sept. 12 Ainsworth S. at Kentucky Downs.

Slipstream, fifth to Poppy Flower in his debut, comes off a front-running romp for Christophe Clement. Michael Trombetta’s Maryland shipper, Biz Biz Buzz, rolled from off the pace to win first out at Laurel.

Midnight Worker was entered in last Sunday’s Pilgrim (G2), but scratched in favor of trying turf in this spot instead. A debut winner sprinting at the Spa, the Pletcher pupil reverts in trip after a third in the one-mile Sapling S. at Monmouth. Run Curtis Run, winner of his first two including the Rick Violette S. for New York-breds, stands to benefit from the surface switch as a son of Summer Front. The James Chapman duo of Kavod and Ready to March round out the cast.

Knickerbocker (G3) – Race 8 (4:21 p.m. ET)

The respective second and third from a paceless Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga, No Word and L’Imperator, renew rivalry in the 1 1/8-mile Knickerbocker on the inner turf.

Wertheimer homebred No Word bids for an overdue graded win. A full brother to multiple Grade 2 hero Silentio, the Pletcher trainee placed in last year’s deep Saratoga Derby and Belmont Derby (G1), and missed by just a half-length in the Sept. 6 Baruch. Stablemate En Wye Cee scratched from the Baruch due to the rain-softened ground. Third in the 2020 Knickerbocker, En Wye Cee has raced only once since, winding up a troubled third in a Saratoga allowance.

Brown is also double-handed with L’Imperator, winner of that Spa allowance over En Wye Cee, and veteran graded competitor Sacred Life, who was runner-up to comebacker Breaking the Rules in their latest Saratoga venture. Phipps homebred Breaking the Rules, another looking for a graded breakthrough, was fourth in last fall’s Knickerbocker.

Field Pass, successful in the Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G3) two back, exits an eighth in the Fourtstardave H. (G1). Epic Bromance was third in the United Nations (G1) and fifth in the Turf Cup (G2) at Kentucky Downs in his last pair. Singspiel (G3) hero Corelli likewise gets relief, and a cutback, in the wake of his sixth in the Canadian International (G1). Temple was a recent 1 1/4-mile allowance winner over the course.