Gary Barber and John Oxley's undefeated Road to Victory will look to improve to 4-for-4 in going against a talented field that includes three-time graded stakes winner Midnight Bisou in the 62nd running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Road to Victory is the only horse with the distinction of defeating Monomoy Girl, the leader of the division who has posted victories in three straight Grade 1 races in the Ashland, Kentucky Oaks and Acorn.
Trained by Mark Casse, Road to Victory bested Monomoy Girl in the Grade 2 Golden Rod for juveniles on November 25 at Churchill Downs, winning by a neck in earning a 91 Beyer Speed Figure for the 1 1/16-mile race that is the same distance as the Mother Goose, carded as Race 8.
Casse said Road to Victory suffered an ankle injury following that win. Following more than six months off, the Quality Road filly returned to action in a six-furlong turf sprint, winning the Alywood by a 1 1/2-length score on June 9 at Woodbine.
“We just gave her some time off and she grew up,” Casse said. “It took a little longer to get her back than I thought it would. When I knew we couldn't make the Kentucky Oaks, we came up with Plan B for the Alywood and the Mother Goose.”
The Alywood, held on Woodbine's turf course, allowed Road to Victory to race before returning to graded stakes company.
“She has no conditions since she was a stakes winner. I didn't want to run her against older fillies, so I looked at all the races all over North America and asked what was the best spot to bring her here knowing I wouldn't have to train her so hard that she needed to be 100 percent,” Casse added. “I wanted her to get a win, and she broke her maiden at Woodbine [on October 17], and I just thought it was a good spot that would lead up to the Mother Goose.”
Casse said Road to Victory looks to be at full strength as she has been breezing at Belmont since earlier this month.
“We've been extremely happy with how she's trained since arriving at Belmont,” Casse said.
Jockey Manny Franco will ride from post 6.
Casse also entered Gio Game, who drew post 4 with Julien Leparoux slated to ride. But the trainer said Gio Game could likely target the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 7 with Road to Victory going in the Mother Goose.
“More than likely, only one is going to run,” Casse said. “My idea right now is that if everything remains the same, it will be Road to Victory in the Mother Goose. It never hurts to have two really good fillies. You never know what could happen, if one of them has a temperature or doesn't eat up, and I can decide if one of them needs an extra week.”
Allen Racing and Bloom Racing Stable's Midnight Bisou won her first three starts as a 3-year-old, capturing the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on April 7 at Santa Anita for trainer William Spawr. Midnight Bisou earned a personal-best 91 Beyer in rallying from 11th to finish third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4 at Churchill Downs, with only Wonder Gadot and Monomoy Girl finishing ahead in the 1 1/8-mile route.
She has since been transferred to the barn of Steve Asmussen and Sol Kumin's Madaket Stable bought an interest in the filly.
At 3-2-1 in six career starts, Midnight Bisou has never finished off the board and is 2-for-2 at the Mother Goose distance. The Midnight Lute filly drew post 2 and will have the services of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who will be riding at Belmont Park for the first time since piloting Justify to a Triple Crown-winning victory in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Courtlandt Farms' My Miss Lilly will make her Belmont debut in her first appearance since finishing 11th in the Kentucky Oaks. With her last two races around two turns, she will be cutting back to one turn and running for the first time at Belmont after breezing here five times since May.
“We're cutting back to one turn and she'll need to be a little fresher facing this field. She's never gotten to run here but she's trained well here,” trainer Mark Hennig said.
My Miss Lilly, who won the Grade 2 Gazelle on April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack, will have jockey Flavien Prat in the irons for the first time, with the duo breaking from the outside post 7.
While My Miss Lilly has gone 2-0-2 in five starts being deployed as a closer, Coach Rocks will look to continue to be the speed of the race for trainer Dale Romans.
Coach Rocks set the early fractions before finishing second, 4 ¾ lengths behind Red Ruby, in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on May 18 at Pimlico Racecourse. The effort was a strong bounce back for the daughter of Oxbow after running seventh in the Kentucky Oaks and her best start since coming from off the pace to win the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 31.
Robby Albarado will be in the irons from post 5 for Coach Rocks, who broke her maiden in her seventh start before winning the Oaks at Gulfstream Park next out.
Rounding out the field is Indy Union, who finished third in the Black-Eyed Susan, for trainer Jeremiah Englehart from the rail, and Mo Smart, who will be making her first stakes start for trainer Todd Pletcher after starting her career 2-for-2. She drew post 3.
La Sardane Leads Perfect Sting
Earlier in the card, seven fillies and mares 4-years-old and up will compete in the $100,000 Perfect Sting at one mile on the Widener turf course.
Carded as Race 4, Team Valor's La Sardane, trained by Neil Drysdale, will be going for a third straight win. The 4-year-old French-bred won the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham in June 2017 at Chantilly before being purchased by Team Valor and sent to Drysdale's main base in California.
After making her first start in North America in an allowance race on April 11 at Churchill Downs, she finished a disappointing tenth. Returning in an allowance race on May 3 at Churchill, she bested a field of 12 to win by 1 ¾ lengths. Making her next start in the Grade 3 Intercontinental at seven furlongs on June 7 at Belmont Park, she closed late to capture her first graded stakes win.
“She's been training well since her performance in the Intercontinental,” Drysdale said. “She's shown us that this distance is certainly in her wheelhouse and she's been conditioning forwardly since her last race.”
La Sardane will leave from post 2 with Pratt aboard.
Lido, for Godolphin Racing and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, will look to improve off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Beaugay. The 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry kicked off her 2018 campaign with back-to-back allowance victories on February 23 at Gulfstream Park and April 13 at Belmont.
Lido will depart from post 3 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
Rounding out the field are Feeling Bossy, who won the Mount Vernon for New York breds in her most recent start for trainer Jason Servis and owner Michael Dubb; Thais, for Allen Stable and trainer Chad Brown; Princess Gibraltar, for Leverett Miller and trainer Christophe Clement; In the Lee, for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and owner Stuart S. Janney III; and Pas de Soucis, for Swift Thoroughbreds and trainer Jorge Abreu.
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