A trio of graded stakes made for an exciting Sunday afternoon of racing at Belmont Park.
First on the agenda was the Futurity S. (G3), a six-furlong grass sprint for two-year-olds serving as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2). The undefeated filly Chi Town Lady was favored off a victory in the Bolton Landing S. at Saratoga, but failed to fire her best shot while the up-and-coming Slipstream stole the show.
Fresh off a blowout maiden win racing seven furlongs over the Belmont lawn, Slipstream found himself racing last of eight during the early stages of the Futurity, trailing the leader by nearly eight lengths after a troubled start left him racing in traffic and fighting restraint. But fractions of :22.39 and :44.72 proved sufficient to set up a winning rally from Slipstream, and the son of More Than Ready came charging through the pack to beat pacesetting Run Curtis Run by one length in 1:08.36.
Biz Biz Buzz, Midnight Worker, Poppy Flower, Chi Town Lady, Kavod, and Ready to March completed the order of finish behind Slipstream, a Jump Sucker Stable colorbearer whom trainer Christophe Clement indicated is more likely to target the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) than the Juvenile Turf Sprint.
“If it’s up to me, yes,” Clement told the New York Racing Association. “We have to see how he comes out of it and be sure the owners are on board and that everything goes well.”
Clement mentioned the conditions of the Juvenile Turf at Del Mar as a reason for prepping Slipstream in a six-furlong dash, as opposed to a more traditional 1 1/16-mile steppingstone.
“I prefer six [furlongs] going into a race that’s a mile at Del Mar on firm than a mile and a sixteenth and drop back to a mile,” Clement said. “I always like when you go to California, the idea of pushing that sprinter speed going six or seven furlongs to a mile.”
For the Rosario, the Futurity marked his 44th graded win of 2021, giving him a hefty lead over all other jockeys. Barely more than half an hour later, Rosario picked up a 45th graded win by guiding Royal Flag to a dominant score in the 1 1/8-mile Beldame S. (G2). Favored at 7-10 while dropping in class off a third-place finish in Saratoga’s Personal Ensign S. (G1), Royal Flag rated patiently in fifth place through splits of :23.97, :48.54, and 1:13.03 before rolling past the leaders to win by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:50.02.
“This year she’s obviously taken a big step forward. She’s trained better than ever,” said trainer Chad Brown’s assistant, Dan Stupp. “Everyone has done a great job of developing her and Rosario gets along quite well with her.”
The pacesetting duo of Horologist and Miss Marissa rounded out the trifecta, followed by Gold Spirit, Zaajel, Thankful, and Spice Is Nice. The winner—a W. S. Farish homebred —was securing her sixth victory and third graded win from 12 starts. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) is a potential target for the five-year-old daughter of Candy Ride.
Sunday’s graded stakes action concluded with the Knickerbocker S. (G3), held over 1 1/8 miles on turf. In a driving finish, Brown’s Grade 1-placed Sacred Life produced a perfectly timed rally under jockey Jose Ortiz to gain 5 1/2 lengths in the final furlong and beat pacesetting Field Pass by a head.
“He’s trained well. He’s an honest horse. It just hasn’t worked out for him in some of his races and he clicked with Jose today and got a great trip,” said Stupp. “He got some pace to run into and made a late run and was able to get up at the wire. It was an exciting finish. It looked a little more fun for Jose than it did for me.”
Racing for the partnership of Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, and Michael J. Caruso, Sacred Life reached the finish line in a snappy 1:46.66. Temple, Corelli, No Word, Breaking the Rules, L’Imperator, En Wye Cee, and Epic Bromance completed the order of finish.
The victory marked Sacred Life’s first at the graded or group stakes level since winning the 2017 Prix Thomas Bryon (G3) in France as a juvenile. But the six-year-old son of Siyouni has been a picture of consistency in the interim (he hasn’t missed the board in 21 career starts), and continued success may well be in the offing.