December 7, 2022

Belmont Oaks attracts Brown trio, five European raiders

Consumer Spending wins the Wonder Again Stakes (Photo by Janet Garaguso/Coglianese Photo)

Belmont Oaks (G1) — Race 7 (4:06 p.m. ET)

Chad Brown and Aidan O’Brien have been the dominant trainers over the last decade in the $700,000 Belmont Oaks (G1), and both will be well represented when the 1 1/4-mile turf fixture is renewed Saturday at Belmont Park.

Brown, who won the race five times in a six-year span from 2012-17, will send out three. The once-beaten Haughty coasted by 4 3/4 lengths in her season debut, the June 3 Penn Oaks, her first outing since finishing a close third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Del Mar in November. Consumer Spending seeks her third stakes win in a row, and fourth overall, after taking the Wonder Again (G3) last month, while McKulick has placed in all three prior graded attempts.

“They were paceless races and she’s looking for a mile and a quarter,” said Brown of McKulick. “She’ll improve as she runs longer.”

O’Brien, who’s won the Belmont Oaks twice in the last four years, relies solely on Group 3 winner Concert Hall. A distant third in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) three back, Concert Hall was next fourth in top-heavy edition of the Epsom Oaks (G1), and then occupied the same slot when taking on older rivals in the Pretty Polly (G1) two weeks ago.

The European contingent also includes Group 2 winner Agartha, the Joseph O’Brien-trained filly who finishing fifth in the Irish 1000 Guineas last time, French raiders Hot Queen and Know Thyself, and Godolphin homebred With the Moonlight, a stakes winner at Newmarket prior to trailing home the field of 11 in the Epsom Oaks.

The other domestic hopefuls, besides those from the Brown shedrow, include Edgewood (G2) heroine New Year’s Eve and California invader Cairo Memories, who enters off back-to-back wins in the Providencia (G3) and Honeymoon (G3).

Victory Ride S. (G3) — Race 8 (4:38 p.m. ET)

Happy Soul and Pretty Birdie will look to end their respective two-race losing streaks in the $150,000 Victory Ride S. (G3), a 6 1/2-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies.

Happy Soul is returning to the site of her first two wins, including the 2021 Astoria S., which she triumphed by a collective margin of 22 lengths. Happy Soul confidently won the Dixie Belle S. at Oaklawn in February following a long break, but was up the track when stretching out in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland, and last time faded to second in the Miss Preakness (G3) at Pimlico.

Pretty Birdie, who captured the Schuylerville (G3) last summer, rebounded from a fifth-place finish in the Dixie Belle to take the Purple Martin S. over the Oaklawn strip. The Norm Casse charge then finished second in both the Eight Belles (G2) and Leslie’s Lady S. at Churchill.

The field of seven includes Jersey Girl S. winner Hot Peppers; Sterling Silver, who is undefeated over seven furlongs or less; and Smash Ticket, whose lone stakes try to date was a troubled third in the Sorrento (G2) at Del Mar last summer.