In addition to winning last year's Belmont Stakes with Drosselmeyer, trainer Bill Mott captured the Grade 1 Foxwoods Just a Game with Proviso on the Belmont Stakes undercard. While Mott will not have a Belmont Stakes starter in 2011, he'll have the opportunity to win the Foxwoods Just a Game for the second consecutive year as he will send out Aviate on Saturday in the $400,000 race for fillies and mares at one mile on the turf.
Like Proviso, Aviate is a Juddmonte Farms homebred who began her career overseas and enters the Foxwoods Just a Game off a graded stakes victory outside New York . Aviate, a Group 3 winner in England who also raced in Ireland and France , has made two starts for Mott since arriving in the United States , finishing third in the Grade 3 Honeyfox at Gulfstream Park on March 5 and erasing a 10-length deficit to win the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churcill Downs on May 7. The Foxwoods Just a Game will be her third straight start at one mile.
“[Her development this year] couldn't have been better,” said Mott, who is seeking his fifth Just a Game victory. “We'll see on Saturday if it continues and gets us to where we want to go. Having a Grade 1 would be wonderful.”
Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux will ride Aviate, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, from post position 2.
Trainer H. Graham Motion can duplicate Mott's feat as he will send out Gypsy's Warning in the Foxwoods Just a Game in addition to saddling Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom for the Belmont Stakes.
Gypsy's Warning hails from South Africa , where she won three stakes, including two Group 1 events prior to being acquired by Animal Kingdom's owner, Team Valor International, who sent her to the United States . Since the move, the expatriate is 2-0-2 in seven starts, including wins in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth Park in May 2010 and the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park in November.
In her lone start of 2011, Gypsy's Warning finished seventh over yielding turf in Keeneland's Grade 2 Jenny Wiley on April 16 in what Motion described as a “throw-out” performance.
“I should have scratched her, in hindsight, because she likes firm ground,” said Motion. “It was the only bad race she's run and even that wasn't that bad. We're expecting good things Saturday.”
Gypsy's Warning will leave from the rail with Julien Leparoux aboard as the 5-1 morning-line third choice.
AJ Suited Racing Stable's Much Rejoicing steps up in class and stretches out off a triumph in the six-furlong Glia overnight stakes at Belmont Park on May 13. It was the first start on turf for daughter of Soaring Softly, who won the 1999 Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park before she concluded her career with a triumph in that year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park.
“Strange as it seems, [the Glia] was the first time we got to run her on the grass, which we had been waiting to do for a while,” said the 4-year-old's trainer, Jimmy Toner, who also conditioned Soaring Softly. “Fortunately, she responded to it as we thought she would, so we're happy about that. We're jumping in the water here, stepping up off the overnight stakes, but we think she's capable, and this is a good time to find out.”
Much Rejoicing's two previous starts in 2011 came in route races, a one-mile, off-the-turf optional claimer at Gulfstream in March and a sixth in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Doubledogdare over Keeneland's Polytrack on April 22.
“[The Just a Game is] a mile, and I think we're comfortable with that,” said Toner. “She won going a mile at Gulfstream. The mile is not the question. It's the step up in company that's going to be the question.”
Alan Garcia has the call aboard Much Rejoicing, 12-1 on the morning line, from post 8.
Amen Hallelujah, a two-time Grade 2 winner on the main track, will try turf for the first time in the Foxwoods Just a Game. She seeks her first victory of 2011, having placed in four graded stakes this year, including a second in the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland on April 14 and a third in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 7 in her two most recent starts. Trained by Rick Dutrow, Jr., the IEAH Stables color-bearer will be stretching out from seven furlongs.
John Velazquez will ride Amen Hallelujah from post 3.
The Foxwoods Just a Game field also includes graded stakes winners C. S. Silk, Strike the Bell , Fantasia, Cherokee Queen, and Justaroundmidnight.
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