Ashbrook Farm and BBN Racing’s Concrete Rose staked her claim as the nation’s top sophomore turf filly with a tour de force in Saturday’s $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1). Although three of her rivals were bothered by an uncontrollably rank Newspaperofrecord on the backstretch, Concrete Rose’s ability to secure favorable position, and deploy a lethal turn of foot, would have made her difficult to beat in any event.
Newspaperofrecord, the 8-5 favorite despite being dismissed by Concrete Rose in the May 3 Edgewood (G3) and by Cambier Parc in the June 6 Wonder Again (G3), resented being restrained early. After her last loss, trainer Chad Brown indicated that she’d have a chance to see out this 1 1/4-mile trip, if covered up early rather than on the front end.
But Newspaperofrecord was having none of it. As Japanese shipper Jodie went forward at a sedate pace, the favorite was already starting to toss her head when the field neared the clubhouse turn. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. had his hands full wrangling her back on the inside. An annoyed Newspaperofrecord began to veer out on the turn and careered even worse swinging into the backstretch, causing chain reactions affecting the Aidan O’Brien duo of Just Wonderful and Coral Beach, and her own stablemate Café Americano.
Up front, Jodie was breezing through fractions of :24.29, :49.16, 1:14.14, and 1:37.79 on the firm inner turf. Concrete Rose was well placed in second by Julien Leparoux. With only the one-paced grinder to pass, her superior acceleration figured to carry the day, and that’s just how the stretch played out.
Concrete Rose quickened to the lead passing the eighth-pole and opened up in a few strides. Crossing the wire 2 3/4 lengths clear, the 5-2 second choice finished in 1:59.97.
“I thought Chad’s horse (Newspaperofrecord) would be on the lead unless they came for her,” Leparoux said, “but I guess today they tried something new and took her back a little bit. The Japanese horse (Jodie) wanted to go, so I was happy to be second and my filly relaxed beautiful for me the whole race. I knew at the quarter-pole, I had a lot left. She made a big run at the end. It was nice.”
Just Wonderful, a niece of last year’s Belmont Oaks heroine Athena, was all heart to get up for second over Cambier Parc in a photo. Off a beat slow and awkwardly, and forced out into the center of the course by the wayward Newspaperofrecord, Just Wonderful was in a tactically poor position. Yet she was the only deep closer to get involved, in her best performance of the season so far. With a clean trip, Just Wonderful might have posed a greater challenge, although Concrete Rose likely would have gotten the jump on her.
“She likes to drop in at the races at home, so we decided to do the exact same thing here,” jockey Wayne Lordan said of Just Wonderful. “I thought she came home really well. It’s her first time going that trip as well, and for the future she’ll get that trip. Hopefully, she can come back out here and compete again. I’m delighted with the run.”
Cambier Parc fared best of the Brown runners in third, after shrugging off a barging match with French import Olendon in upper stretch. Jodie plugged on another two lengths astern in fourth, followed by Dyna Passer; Café Americano; Coral Beach, who checked repeatedly in the early fracas; Olendon, who was in good position only to fold tamely once scrimmaging with Cambier Parc; and Newspaperofrecord, who worked into a contending third before emptying in the lane.
Trained by Rusty Arnold, Concrete Rose is now perfect from three starts this season, with a score in the Florida Oaks (G3) en route to the Edgewood. She’s lost only once in her career, when eighth behind Newspaperofrecord in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Just Wonderful, fourth in the same race, was another to overturn the Breeders’ Cup form here. Concrete Rose has bankrolled $818,650 from her 6-5-0-0 line, also reflecting a victory in last fall’s Jessamine (G2).
The daughter of Twirling Candy will look to solidify her status in the ensuing leg of NYRA’s new Turf Tiara, the $750,000 Saratoga Oaks on August 2. The series concludes back at Belmont with the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks on September 7.
“It’s a long year, but her last two have really moved her forward,” Arnold said. “I was impressed today. I was very, very happy with how she ran.
“(I was concerned) I rested her too much. Everyone had run and we hadn’t run in two months and a couple of days and I was a little worried. Her training went smooth, her works went smooth and everything went well. Sometimes your plan works and sometimes it doesn’t work, but this one worked.”
Arnold confirmed that the Spa was next.
“Absolutely. Unless there’s an issue,” he said of the Saratoga Oaks plan. “That’s why we rested her and hopefully it worked.”