July 4, 2022

Seventh heaven for Bleecker Street in New York; Caravel sails in Intercontinental

Bleecker Street wins the New York Stakes (Photo by Joe Labozzetta/Coglianese Photos)

When their ostensible pacemaker set a lackadaisical tempo in Friday’s $735,000 New York (G1), the race shape didn’t exactly help the Chad Brown brigade as designed. But Bleecker Street was able to deploy her stellar turn of foot anyway, unlike stablemates Rougir and Virginia Joy, to extend her record to 7-for-7.

New York (G1)

Brown had indicated that Flighty Lady would go forward, although few would have anticipated her waltzing through splits of :24.54, :50.76, and 1:16.48 on the firm inner turf. Rougir, the 0.65-1 favorite, is reliant on an honest pace, and the stout German import Virginia Joy would have preferred this to turn into a stamina test rather than a sprint home. While Bleecker Street had more gears to offer, the 2.85-1 second choice was also in the worst tactical position, last in the seven-horse field.

Indeed, Flighty Lady was setting the table nicely for the biggest danger to the Brown battalion, the Brendan Walsh-trained Family Way. Well placed in second, Family Way pounced entering the stretch.

Virginia Joy was nearby, but lacking the turbo required in the circumstances, and Rougir wasn’t giving favorite backers much hope. Only Bleecker Street motored on the outside to run down Family Way by a half-length. The Quality Road filly negotiated 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.58 according to the chart, with Trakus recording her final quarter in a blistering :21.70.

Winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr. picked up the mount from Flavien Prat, who stuck with Rougir. Ortiz recapped his trip aboard Bleecker Street:

“Her closing kick, especially with those slow fractions, was nice. Not too many horses can go around a slow pace, slow fractions, like that. I made a wide move to go around and she still got there. She gave me a good kick. She’s very nice. They were backing up into me a little bit and they were a little slow and then everybody was sprinting home, so it was hard to catch them. But she got the job done. 

“I had never ridden her before so I talked to Flavien and he gave me some tips, like she’s pretty easy to ride and she’s not too fast out of the gate. I tried to find out everything I can about her. She was undefeated and I wanted to keep going with her. Now she’s 7-for-7 and everything worked out perfect. Thank God.

“I was confident the whole way with her. I never had a doubt because when I asked her to move forward, she did it and pretty quick. I got hold of her for a second and she went around and gave me a good feeling. She’s a fighter and she’s all heart. She’s a good filly.”

Flighty Lady had plenty in reserve and gamely held her own in third, just a neck adrift of Family Way, and the same margin to the good of fourth-placer Virginia Joy. Next came Rougir, Core Values, and the tailed-off Lovely Lucky who “stargazed” per the chartcaller.

Brown was wondering if the lackluster Rougir preferred more give in the ground.

“She just didn’t fire today. She was in a good spot, always ahead of Bleecker Street. We didn’t have any excuse,” the horseman said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board. Maybe the softer ground in her form suggested (she prefers softer turf), but she certainly trained really well at Belmont.”

Sporting the colors of Peter Brant, also the owner of Virginia Joy and Flighty Lady and co-owner of Rougir, Bleecker Street has bankrolled $834,700. The four-year-old has come a long way since breaking her maiden at Monmouth last summer and clearing her entry-level allowance condition at the Meadowlands. She began her serious ascent at Tampa Bay Downs, taking a second-level allowance followed by the Feb. 5 Endeavour (G3) and March 12 Hillsborough (G2). Last seen at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, Bleecker Street navigated traffic to prevail in the Modesty (G3).

The New York marked her first attempt at 1 1/4 miles, but given the pace, her acceleration was more important.

“What a remarkable horse,” Brown marveled. “I wasn’t sure about a mile and a quarter. She finished her races like she would get it, but as you know, handicapping doesn’t always work out that way. Just because they’re closing and you keep on stretching them out, sometimes it has to do with pace, when they make their move and how long their move is.

“This filly does everything we put at her. What a remarkable horse – where she started and where she came from. She’s moving up in the ranks of one of the better ones I’ve had.”

Bleecker Street was bred in Kentucky by Branch Equine and sold for $400,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling. Out of the stakes-placed Exchange Rate mare Lemon Liqueur, the gray hails from the family of Grade 1-winning turf Gabriel Charles and millionaire Pants on Fire.

Intercontinental (G3)

Pace made the race in the $200,000 Intercontinental (G3), as Caravel went wire to wire after the scratch of the speedy Robin Sparkles. Trained by Brad Cox and piloted by Tyler Gaffalione, the 2.95-1 favorite traveled smoothly in :22.58 and :44.75, shrugged off pace companion Illegal Smile, and held sway by one length. Caravel completed six furlongs on the firm Widener course in 1:07.59.

Star Devine, always prominent on the inside, bravely fought on for the runner-up spot by a nose from the closing Jouster, who had to alter course for room. Lady Edith crossed the wire fourth, and rounding out the order of finish were Illegal Smile, Assertive Style, Tobys Heart (who lost all chance with a problematic start), Miss J McKay, Flower Point, Miss Majorette, and Nevisian Sunrise. The Grass Is Blue was withdrawn along with Robin Sparkles.

Caravel’s seventh career stakes tally advanced her record to 15-9-0-3, $563,777. Five of those stakes wins, most notably the 2021 The Very One S. at Pimlico and Caress (G3) at Saratoga, came when trained by owner/breeder Elizabeth Merryman.

The Pennsylvania-bred was then switched to Graham Motion after celebrity chef Bobby Flay acquired an interest, with a view toward the Breeders’ Cup. But Caravel didn’t have much luck versus males. Third in the Highlander (G1), a dead-heat sixth in the Turf Monster (G3), and last in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar, she was offered at Fasig-Tipton November.

Fergus Galvin, agent, bought her for $500,000, and she resurfaced for Cox with new connections. Her debut for Qatar Racing and Marc Detampel came in the March 19 Queen S. over Turfway’s Tapeta, where she scored handsomely. Madaket Stables subsequently joined the partnership.

Caravel was made eligible for Royal Ascot, but she ended up trying males at home instead. In the May 6 TwinSpires Turf Sprint (G2), she wound up sixth on the slower inside part of the course. Firmer ground back among distaffers made for a winning formula on Friday.

“She was training well enough to give us the confidence to try the boys,” Cox said. “It didn’t work out, but nobody was kicking down the inside at Churchill at all. I think she showed today she’s one of the best in the division.”

“That day at Churchill, coming into the stretch I thought we had a really good shot,” Gaffalione said. “The ground got to her. It was a little soft down on the inside that day, but today everything went according to plan. She broke alertly, put herself in the race and traveled great throughout.

“I really didn’t expect to be there (on the lead). I thought there was a little more speed. But she jumped so well and I didn’t want to take anything away from her. She was just doing everything so easy. She was going around there with her ears going back and forth. When she was challenged, she kept finding more.”

Cox didn’t envision her as the Intercontinental front runner either.

“I was a little bit (surprised to see her on the lead). I thought maybe there’d be one or two in front of her. When they broke, I couldn’t find her early…Then she kind of placed herself in front and I thought it was a good spot. I saw the :22 and whatever and it was comfortable enough and left her enough to finish up with.”

The five-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast and the Congrats mare Zeezee Zoomzoom will likely aim higher in future engagements to be determined.

“I don’t,” Cox responded when asked about her next start. “I would say Saratoga would be the logical spot. At some point, it maybe makes sense to try a Grade 1. Not sure how many Grade 1s are out there for sprinters on the turf. We may have to wait for the Breeders’ Cup.

“We can’t run her in the Jaipur (G1) tomorrow,” he laughed. “But that did cross our mind. We’ll point for the Breeders’ Cup and work our way backwards.”