John Oxley's Moon Colony is continuing to train for the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational following a victory in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 1.
The Belmont Derby is the first leg of the Turf Triple, showcasing 3-year-old turf runners, with the 10-furlong contest slated for Saturday, July 6 as part of the Stars & Stripes Festival to be broadcast live nationwide on NBC.The first leg of the Turf Tiara for 3-year-old fillies will be the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational, also on Stars & Stripes Day.
Trained by Mark Casse, the 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo won the Penn Mile off of a five-month layoff. His prior effort was a fifth-place finish in the Kitten's Joy on January 5 at Gulfstream Park.
Moon Colony recorded his first work since the Penn Mile on Saturday morning and went a half-mile in 48.12 seconds over the Belmont Park main track.
“I think he's an extremely nice horse,” Casse said. “In his race prior at Gulfstream, there was no pace and [jockey] Jose [Ortiz] came back and said he probably messed up by sitting back too far. We brought him to our training center in Ocala and gave him a break and he came back bigger, stronger and better than ever. That's what prompted me to run him at Penn. I had a fair amount of confidence in him. I told [jockey] Julien [Leparoux] that it would be in his best interest to make the trip up to ride him.”
Moon Colony broke his maiden at third asking over the turf at Keenland last October before defeating winners at Fair Grounds two starts later. Bred in Kentucky by St. Elias Stables, he is out of the graded stakes winning Carson City broodmare Promenade Girl and was purchased for $400,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2017.
Casse also spoke of recent maiden special weight winner Cucina, who graduated by a neck over the main track at Belmont Park on Friday in his second career start.
The son of Northern Afleet made his debut at Gulfstream Park in May, finishing second. Casse said turf could be his ideal surface and stated a start in the Grade 1, $250,000 Summer on September 15 at Woodbine could be in his future.
“He's a nice little horse,” Casse said. “I said after his race at Gulfstream that I thought he was New York caliber and Mr. Dizney let me move him up. I'd like to see him on grass and I'm still thinking that might be his best surface. He would be a horse that I would consider for the Summer at Woodbine. It's a Breeders' Cup Win and You're In race.”
A Florida homebred, Cucina is the first foal out of the Elusive Quality broodmare Il Mulino.
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