The Coolmore Partners' Athena ran just six days ago in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh, finishing third, but had no problems blowing by her 3-year-old female rivals in Saturday's Grade 1 Belmont Oaks. The daughter of Camelot hit the wire 2 1/2 lengths ahead of a tightly-bunched pack, with Thewayiam a nose best in second. Ridden by Ryan Moore for trainer Aidan O'Brien, the 10-1 Athena covered 1 1/4 miles over Belmont Park's firm turf course in 1:58.71.
Off as the 3-1 favorite, Significant Form had a bit of trouble in the far turn and finished fourth.
“I don't think it was a surprise really because she traveled here well and Donnacha [O'Brien] wasn't hard on her when she ran last week at the Curragh,” said T.J. Comerford, assistant to O'Brien. “Six days later, a mile and a quarter on hard ground is probably her trip. She can probably go a bit farther as well but it's great to get her going at a mile and a quarter and she can go a mile and a half in time. She's won over a mile and a quarter and she does it impressively. She didn't look like she was stopping. The pace started off quick but it got moderate. She was in a good enough position. [Jockey] Ryan [Moore] knew he had enough horse under him to do what he wanted. He just had to the press the button on her, and whenever he wanted her to go, she went. Aidan was very happy. It's grand to get a Group 1.”
La Signare shot to the front out of the gates, taking a two-length lead over the duo of Significant Form and Toinette. Thewayiam and Mighty Scarlett traveled in unison behind those, and Athena was well-rated in third-last around the backstretch, about eight lengths off the lead. Significant Form held her rail position and tried to find room around La Signare the far turn, but was boxed in by Toinette.
Meanwhile, Ryan Moore found clear sailing around the far outside for Athena, but the filly hadn't yet found her best gear. As Thewayiam took on a finally clear Significant Form near the rail, Athena found her rhythm and went flying by the field in the final sixteenth of a mile. Under the wire about three lengths behind Athena was Thewayiam in second, with Chipolata just nosing out Significant Form for the show.
“There was no real plan, to be honest,” Moore said after the race. “She's a very straightforward filly. She's taken her racing very well. I rode her before the start of the year and all she's done is improve tremendously. In her first out, I wasn't sure what she could do. The second time I rode her, she really impressed me. This was the third time I've rode her and I thought she was very impressive.”
Athena, bred in Ireland by Roncon & Chelston, may have had only a maiden win from nine starts on her resume, but the filly had shown improvement in each of her last three starts since that victory. The Belmont Oaks improves her record to two wins, two seconds and a third from 10 starts, for earnings of over $650,000.
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