Ashbrook Farm and BBN Racing's Concrete Rose and Klaravich Stables' Newspaperofrecord will renew their rivalry in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational, a 1 1/4-mile test on the inner turf featuring an international field of nine sophomore fillies at Belmont Park.
Saturday marks the inaugural $5.25 million Turf Triple Series, featuring the Turf Trinity and Turf Tiara for sophomores over three legs at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, headlining the Stars & Stripes Festival to be broadcast live nationwide on NBC.
Concrete Rose, a dark bay daughter of Twirling Candy trained by George 'Rusty' Arnold, has won 4-of-5 career starts. Her only loss came in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf when eighth in a race won by Newspaperofrecord.
A winner at first asking in a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint at Saratoga, Concrete Rose doubled up with a three-length win in the Grade 2 Jessamine in October at Keeneland ahead of her Breeder's Cup run.
She opened her 2019 campaign with a half-length victory in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs and last out, in the Grade 3 Edgewood on May 3 at Churchill Downs, Concrete Rose provided Newspaperofrecord her first career defeat with a rallying 3 ¾-length score.
Arnold said Concrete Rose has progressed nicely in her sophomore season but believes Newspaperofrecord will again be a formidable foe.
“She's improved from two to three but we had a little edge on Newspaperofrecord last time out,” said Arnold. “We got a race in at Tampa and Newspaperofrecord was coming off a longer layoff, so the edge went to us. Now, she [Newspaperofrecord] has two races into her and we have two races in us, so it's a different ballgame now.”
Arnold said Julien Leparoux, who will pilot Concrete Rose from post 4, will have plenty of options to sort out a trip.
“She has won from five and a half furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth. She has speed of her own if there's none in there. She'll be comfortable,” said Arnold. “If there's a lot of speed in there, she's not rank and she can lay back. She's done it both ways. She was very close in her race at Tampa, and very close in her race at Keeneland last year. She came from off the pace in her last race, so it's really not a concern.”
Arnold said Concrete Rose has trained well as she prepares to race off a two-month layoff.
“We're ready. It was a decision to make,” said Arnold. “We could have squeezed a race in the middle, but we wanted to have some horse left for the summer and the fall so we gave her a little break. Hopefully, we'll be a little more active from here on out.”
Belmont's leading trainer Chad Brown will saddle a trio of contenders including Newspaperofrecord, Cambier Parc and Cafe Americano.
Undefeated in her juvenile season, Newspaperofrecord boasted wins in both the Grade 2 Miss Grillo and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Following her runner-up effort to Concrete Rose in the Edgewood, the front-running filly again finished second in the Grade 3 Wonder Again at nine furlongs on June 6 on the Belmont turf. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will retain the mount from post 2.
OXO Equine's Cambier Parc boasts a record of three wins from five starts including a score in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream Park. By Medaglia d'Oro, he is out of the graded stakes winning dam Sealy Hill, who was Canada's 2007 Horse of the Year. Jose Ortiz has the call from post 9.
Peter Brant's Cafe Americano is undefeated in two career starts, including a June 1 optional claiming score at Belmont that earned a 76 Beyer Speed Figure for the nine-furlong trip. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano takes over from post 5 aboard the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro and multiple Sovereign Award-winner Roxy Gap.
Legendary Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien will saddle a pair of top contenders, led by Just Wonderful and Coral Beach.
Just Wonderful, a bay daughter of Dansili out of the Montjeu mare Wading, captured the Group 3 Flame of Tara Irish E.B.F. at the Curragh in September and two starts later was victorious in the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfel at Newmarket.
She completed her 2-year-old campaign with a good fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Winless in three sophomore starts, including an eighth last out in the Group 1 Coronation at Ascot, Just Wonderful comes from the same family as last year's Belmont Oaks-winner Athena.
O'Brien said the added distance on Saturday should help Just Wonderful.
“On pedigree, there's a chance that she might get it but she seems to be in good form since her last run,” said O'Brien.
Coral Beach, a bay daughter of Zoffany, owns a record of 2-1-2 from 10 starts. She graduated in October at Cork when sprinting six furlongs and came back to beat the boys in October in the Group 3 Killavullan at Leopardstown.
Winless in three attempts this season, Coral Beach arrives at the Belmont Oaks from a good fourth in the Sandringham on June 21 at Ascot.
“I think she's going to handle the stretch out in distance very well. She ran well the last day at Ascot and it looked like the step up in trip would help her massively,” said O'Brien assistant T.J. Comerford. “I think stepping up in distance really should help both our fillies.”
Wayne Lordan will ride Just Wonderful from post 6 and Michael Hussey has the call on Coral Beach from post 3.
Wonder Stables' Olendon, trained by Pascal Bary, will make her North American debut in the Belmont Oaks.
Last out, the Le Havre filly finished second behind well-regarded Siyarafina in the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary, a 1 1/4-mile test for sophomore fillies over good to soft going at Longchamp in France.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will guide Olendon from the inside post.
Tadakazu Obama's Jodie, a daughter of Daiwa Major bred by the famous Northern Farm, has contested all nine career starts on turf in her native Japan.
She graduated on debut last June in Tokyo and followed up with a good third in the Group 3 Niigata Nisai at Niigata at one mile on the turf. In November, Jodie captured the Akamatsu Sho over one mile of firm turf at Tokyo in November.
Trained by Hirofumi Toda, Jodie opened her sophomore campaign in February, finishing third in the Group 1 Daily Hai Queen Cup at Tokyo when racing at one-mile for the sixth time. She stretched out to 1 1/4 miles in April finishing third in the Group 2 Sankei Sports Sho Flora Stakes at Tokyo. Last out, in the 1 1/2-miles Group 1 Japanese Oaks, Jodie set the early pace before fading to finish 14th.
Miyabi Muto will pilot the front-running filly from post 7.
Rounding out an impressive field is Woodslane Farm's maiden winner Dyna Passer. Trained by Tom Albertrani, the Lemon Drop Kid chestnut is a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Sadler's Joy. Last out, on May 23 at Belmont, Dyna Passer graduated by a length in a 1 3/8-mile turf maiden.
Joel Rosario will ride Dyna Passer for the first time from post 8.
The Turf Tiara will continue August 2 at Saratoga with the inaugural $750,000 Saratoga Oaks, held at 1 3/16-miles (1,900 meters) on the Saratoga lawn and broadcast live nationally on FS2, kicking off Whitney weekend festivities.
The final jewel will be the first-ever $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks slated for September 7 at Belmont, will be contested at 1 3/8-miles (2,200 meters) on the turf, and aired live on NBC, as part of an action-packed weekend of racing to raise the curtain on the Belmont fall meet.
The Belmont Oaks Invitational is slated as Race 7 on Saturday's 11-race card. First post is 1 p.m.
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