A solid group of 10 three-year-old fillies will take center stage on the opening day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on Thursday in the $200,000 Wonder Again (G3) at Belmont Park.
The Wonder Again is one of three stakes on Thursday. The supporting stakes are the $150,000 Astoria for two-year-old fillies going 5 ½ furlongs on the main track and the $200,000 Intercontinental (G3) for fillies and mares at seven furlongs on turf.
The nine-race card on Thursday gets underway at 3:05 ET. There are five stakes on Friday’s card and then on Saturday there are eight Grade 1 races on tap including the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1), the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
The Todd Pletcher trained Jouster is the 3-1 morning line favorite for the Wonder Again. The filly took the field gate to wire to win the Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland over good ground at a mile in her last outing. Among her foes is her stablemate Con Lima (6-1), who won the Honey Ryder at Gulfstream Park in her last outing.
Both of the Pletcher fillies have early zip but Jouster figures to be sent early again.
“I think Jouster is naturally quicker and Con Lima has shown that she can sit just off the pace,” Pletcher said.
Trainer Christophe Clement sends out a duo in Plum Ali (5-1) and longshot. Creative Cairo (30-1). Plum Ali was third in the Appalachian in her last outing, checking in two lengths behind the winner.
Jouster Wins the Appalachian
“At Keeneland, she was a bit unlucky because of the pace scenario,” said Clement. “I have a small question mark if she will stay a mile and an eighth or mile and a quarter. But we’re giving it a try and we’ll find out. Her race at Keeneland was actually a very good race. She finished third in a good race. The pace was against her, but she finished well. She’s trained well since.”
The Astoria drew a field of six led by the Wesley Ward trained Happy Soul, who is 1-2 on the morning line. She broke her maiden over the Belmont Park main track by 11 ¾ lengths.
The Intercontinental drew nine but two are main track only entrants. The Chad Brown trained Regal Glory is the 6-5 morning line favorite. The mare won the Plenty of Grace at Aqueduct in her last start over good ground at Aqueduct on April 11.
Let’s head out to Belmont Park for Thursday’s featured race of the day:
Belmont Park Race 8 The Wonder Again G3 6:45 ET
10 Plum Ali 5-1
2 Con Lima 6-1
6 Gift List 7-2
5 Jouster 3-1
The Clement trainee is coming off a third-place finish in the Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland which was her first go off a five-month layoff. She tracked a slow early pace set by Jouster and could not get to the top pair late, checking in two lengths back of the winner. The runner up Gift List came back to win the Edgewood (G2) in her next outing on April 30 at Churchill Downs. Our top pick won her first three starts as a juvenile including the Miss Grillo (G2) over the grass here. She then was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). She looks as if she can handle the extra ground here and just needs to see a bit more pace to turn the tables.
This filly is one of two here sent out by the Pletcher barn. She has landed in the exacta in 9 of her 10 starts and is coming off a career top earned winning the Honey Ryder at Gulfstream Park over good ground last out at 1 1/16 miles at 4-5. She prompted the early pace and drew off in the stretch to win by four lengths. She crossed the wire second and placed first three back in the Herercomesthebride (G3) and won that race coming from off the pace. Her stablemate Jouster is quicker and today this gal figures to be taken back with Prat aboard. She handled ground with some give to it well last out and there may still be some cut in the ground this afternoon. She has enough pedigree to handle nine furlongs.
The Lynch trainee makes her third start off the bench since landing in the U.S. She could not catch a loose on the lead Jouster two back in the Appalachian and came back with a sharp win in the Edgewood (G2) at Keeneland over good ground. She looks primed for a top effort here and has handled ground with some give to it. She is by Bated Breath out of the Machiavellian stakes winner Birthstone who won the Prix d’Aumale (G3) at a mile at Chantilly in her second and final career start. The mare has dropped four other turf winners. She looks as if she still has some upside.