ELMONT, N.Y. – A select field of sophomore fillies headed by dual graded stakes winner Joyful Victory has been entered to contest Saturday's 55th renewal of the Grade 1, $250,000 Mother Goose at Belmont. Park.
Joyful Victory, trained by Larry Jones for Fox Hill Farms, most recently was fourth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6. She broke from the rail that day in a field of 13, and Jones said he thought the filly might not have been able to hit her best stride.
“There was some traffic and I don't think she was able to do her running when she wanted,” said Jones. “She's a big, long-striding filly and she needed to be cruising faster than she was able to [in the Oaks]. If you look at her race in the Breeders' Cup [Juvenile Fillies] last year when Tony [Dutrow] had her, it was the same kind of race, and the outcomes were similar.”
Trained for the first three starts of her career by Dutrow, Joyful Victory graduated from a maiden win at Delaware Park in September to a third-place showing in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont one month later. Sent to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, November 5 at Churchill Downs, she stalked the early pace before fading to fifth.
The daughter of Tapit turned in back-to-back dominant efforts at Oaklawn Park this year to start her sophomore campaign for Jones, romping by 8 ¾ lengths in the Grade 3 Honeybee on March 12 and seven lengths in April's Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes, both at the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose distance. She has worked three times since the Oaks, most recently breezing a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40 on June 20 at Delaware Park.
“Rick Porter [of Fox Hill Farms] picked out this spot for her after the Oaks,” Jones said. “We gave her a little time after that race and she's been steadily picking it up in her works, so I believe we've got her where we want her.”
Ramon Dominguez has been named to ride Joyful Victory, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 4.
Salty Strike, who finished a well-beaten fourth behind Joyful Victory in the Honeybee, is back after a pair of persuasive races of her own at Churchill – a 3 ¾-length victory in the Grade 3 Dogwood on June 4 and a seven-length optional claiming conquest on May 20. Having saddled her to a 3-1-1 mark from seven starts, trainer Ken McPeek said he now has a better understanding of the Smart Strike filly.
“She's done very well since we got her back on the dirt,” McPeek said. “She doesn't like synthetic, she doesn't seem to be a two-turn filly, and Lasix seems to dull her a little bit.”
Owned and bred by Craig Singer, Salty Strike raced twice as a juvenile, breaking her maiden impressively upon debut at Churchill Downs last May, then finishing third in Churchill's Grade 3 Debutante Stakes on June 26. Sidelined after that race with a fractured cannon bone, she lost her comeback allowance race – and first start on Lasix – by a length. She also raced on Lasix when fourth in the Honeybee and sixth in an allowance race over Keeneland's Polytrack on April 21. Without Lasix in her two most recent starts, McPeek has seen a different filly.
“Lasix takes a lot of fluid out of them, and without it she's bounced out of her races really quickly,” McPeek said. “She's dappled out from head to toe right now and she got to New York Monday morning and has settled in really well. We were looking at this race or the Prioress [Grade 1, six furlongs at Belmont on July 4], but she's coming off a mile race, this is around one turn, and I think anytime you have a shot with a filly in a Grade 1, you have to take it.”
Manoel Cruz comes in to ride Salty Strike – tabbed as the 5-2 morning-line second choice – from post 2.
Trainer Todd Pletcher looks for his fourth win in the Mother Goose and second in as many years as he sends out both Buster's Ready and R Gypsy Gold in Saturday's race.
Buster's Ready finished a game second in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 20, earning a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 96 in the process. Trained by Pletcher for the Estate of Edward P. Evans, the daughter of More Than Ready has been no worse than third in five starts since breaking her maiden over the main track at Aqueduct on November 18. The Black-Eyed Susan was her first race in graded company and Pletcher expressed pleasure at her recent development.
“[Her half-mile work in 51.97 Sunday morning] was a little bit slow, but she did it relaxed and on her own, and she's very fit,” said Pletcher. “It was a good performance last time in the Black-Eyed Susan, and I hope she continues that trend of improvement.”
Buster's Ready will have John Velazquez aboard on Saturday and drew post 5 at 7-2 on the morning line.
R Gypsy Gold, owned by E. Paul Robsham Stables, broke her maiden by 7 ½ lengths in her most recent outing, a 1 1/16-mile race at Monmouth on June 4. She will have the services of Javier Castellano from post 6.
Kiaran McLaughlin, who two weeks ago saddled It's Tricky to an upset victory in the Grade 1 TVG Acorn on the June 11 Belmont Stakes day undercard, hopes for similar luck when he sends out Shadwell Stable's Alseera in the Mother Goose.
On May 25, the Distorted Humor filly came from just off the pace to score by 2 ¼ lengths in a six-furlong optional claimer in her 2011 debut at Belmont. In two starts at age 2, Alseera finished fifth going five furlongs at Saratoga Race Course and was a front-running 1 ½ -length winner next out at a mile on September 16 at Belmont Park.
“It's a step up, but we've seen it happen before,” said McLaughlin with a smile. “If you go back to It's Tricky [in the Acorn], we were looking for Grade 1 black type, and we'd have been happy with second or third. It looks like we made the right decision with the other one; maybe we can get a little lucky here.”
Alan Garcia has the call aboard Alseera, 6-1 on the morning line, from post 7.
Making a quick turnaround from the TVG Acorn is Victoria's Wildcat, who was fourth that afternoon over a muddy track. Winner of the Grade 3, seven-furlong Eight Belles at Churchill Downs on May 6, the Mother Goose will be her first start beyond a mile.
Victoria's Wildcat has drawn the rail under David Cohen.
Completing the field is Darley Stable's recent maiden winner My Assets, who graduated at second asking by 5 ¾ lengths in a one-mile race at Belmont on May 29.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, My Assets will be ridden by Alex Solis from post 3.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2018 Paulick Report.