Proctor's Ledge and On Leave, separated by only a half-length when finishing 1-2 five weeks ago, will meet again this Saturday at Belmont Park in the Grade 1, $700,000 Longines Just a Game for fillies and mares.
The Just a Game is Race 8 on Saturday's 13-race card and will serve as the first leg of the $1.5 million guaranteed all-Grade 1 Pick 4, which also includes the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap and Woodford Reserve Manhattan and concludes with the 150th renewal of the Belmont Stakes, presented by NYRA Bets.
Post time for the Just a Game is scheduled for 3:58 p.m. The one-mile race on the Widener turf course will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network. NBC will pick up live coverage from Belmont beginning at 4 p.m.
During their previous meeting, Proctor's Ledge, a 4-year-old Patricia Mosley homebred, unleashed a strong turn of foot to reel in On Leave and prevail by a half-length in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Following the Distaff Turf Mile, trainer Brendan Walsh initially considered having Proctor's Ledge make her next start in either the Just a Game or the Grade 2 New York, which will be contested at 1 ¼ miles this Friday. Walsh eventually decided in favor of the Just a Game based off a multitude of factors.
“It is a one-turn mile, which I think will really suit her,” said Walsh. “And I think she'll like the big, sweeping turn. She has always been a good turn runner. And it's a Grade 1.”
In addition to the Distaff Turf Mile, Proctor's Ledge also has won the 2017 Grade 2 Lake Placid and Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga Race Course. The Ghostzapper filly finished eighth in her two previous Grade 1 efforts: the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last October and the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April, both at Keeneland.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Proctor's Ledge from post position 5.
On Leave, a 5-year-old, has won four times in five starts over the Belmont turf, including triumphs in the 2016 Grade 2 Sands Point and 2017 Perfect Sting. She also has excelled in one-mile races, sporting four wins from eight starts at the distance. Her past four starts have all come at one mile, sandwiching a victory in the Grade 3 My Charmer at Gulfstream Park in December between third-place finishes in the Grade 2 Goldikova in November at Del Mar and Gulfstream's Grade 3 Honey Fox in March prior to her runner-up effort in the Distaff Turf Mile.
“[The Just a Game] is a big move up,” said Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who trains On Leave for owner/breeder Stuart S. Janney, III. “Her two races this year have been really good, so we'll see what happens. We're hoping to get some racing luck on the grass. If she goes over there and runs her race the way she has been she'll be just as tough as the rest of them.”
On Leave drew post 1 and will be ridden by Manuel Franco.
Like Proctor's Ledge and On Leave, Lull is a multiple graded stakes winner who is seeking her first Grade 1 triumph. She earned her first graded stakes victory last October when she scored by 3 ¼ lengths in the Grade 3 Autumn Miss at Santa Anita. The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred finished an even fifth in the Grade 1 Matriarch in November at Del Mar before returning to form with a gate-to-wire victory in the Honey Fox. All three of those starts came at one mile.
The 4-year-old War Front filly also has victories in the 2016 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies at seven furlongs and the 2017 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint at 6 ½ furlongs.
“Her best distance, probably, is around six, seven furlongs on the grass, but I'm sure she is plenty good enough to go a mile, especially the one-turn mile at Belmont, which is rather speed-favoring,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “It's exciting. It's a very good race. It's fun. We'll try.”
Jose Ortiz will guide Lull from post 4.
Trainer Chad Brown, who won last year's Just a Game with Antonoe, will send out an imposing duo in Off Limits and A Raving Beauty.
Off Limits, owned by Martin Schwartz, concluded her 2017 campaign on a four-race winning streak, capturing an optional claimer at Saratoga, the Grade 3 Nobel Damsel and Grade 3 Athenia at Belmont, and the Grade 1 Matriarch at Del Mar. In two starts this year she has finished fifth in the Grade 3 Hillsborough in March at Tampa Bay Downs and third in the Jenny Wiley on April 14 at Keeneland.
Off Limits will leave from post 3 with Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano aboard.
A Raving Beauty – a 5-year-old owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Bethlehem Stables – has raced once in North America, scoring by three lengths in the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 12 at Belmont in her first start for Brown. She was purchased at auction in France for $264,915 last November after making 17 starts in Europe, including a pair of stakes wins in Germany and a third in the Group 1 Premio Lydia Tesio in Italy.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride A Raving Beauty from post 7.
The field also includes Dream Dancing and La Coronel, a pair of Grade 1 winners from the barn of Mark Casse; and Cambodia, a three-time graded stakes winner who was sixth in the Jenny Wiley in her most recent start.
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