(Annapolis wins the Pilgrim Stakes last year / JG Photo & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Graded stakes winners Emmanuel and Annapolis breezed a half-mile in company in 48.04 seconds Friday over the inner turf in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational on July 9 at Belmont Park. 

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said he was pleased with the work for both horses, who were making their first breeze back from starts in graded stakes.

“It was a good work. They went in 48 and change, finished up nicely and galloped out well. I was happy with it,” Pletcher said.

WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Emmanuel captured the nine-furlong Grade 2 Pennine Ridge last out on June 4 at Belmont in his first start on grass, besting Napoleonic War by one length with Limited Liability a further length back in third. 

The top-three finishers of the Pennine Ridge earned an automatic invite to the 10-furlong Grade 1 Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational, the first leg of the Caesars Turf Triple series for sophomores.

The Turf Triple continues with the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 6 at Saratoga Race Course and concludes with the $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational in September at Belmont.

Emmanuel, a three-time winning sophomore son of More Than Ready, was previously third in the Grade 1 Blue Grass in April at Keeneland.

Bass Stables homebred Annapolis was defeated for the first time last out while making his seasonal debut over soft going in the Grade 3 Penn Mile on June 3 at Penn National, finishing second to 83-1 upset winner Wow Whata Summer. The son of War Front had won his two previous starts last year, including the Grade 2 Pilgrim at Belmont. 

“I thought he ran well. Unfortunately, we caught a lot of rain, and it was an extremely heavy track,” Pletcher said. “It was tough to do that off that layoff, I thought he gave us a good effort. He just couldn’t accelerate that last part with the boggy ground.”

Pletcher captured two editions of the Belmont Derby when it was run as the Jamaica, winning with Take the Points [2009] and Finality [2002]. He expressed a sense of optimism in Emmanuel getting the Belmont Derby’s 1 1/4-mile distance. 

“We were encouraged with the way he handled the mile and eighth, the way he finished and how he’s handled the turf,” Pletcher said. “With the way he breezed this morning, all indicators are that he’s in good form.”

Bred in Kentucky by Helen K. Groves Revocable Trust, Emmanuel is out of the unraced Hard Spun mare Hard Cloth, who is a half-sister to multiple Group 1-winning multi-millionaire Hawkbill and North American graded stakes winner Free Drop Billy. Emmanuel was purchased for $350,000 out of Gainesway’s consignment at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Annapolis is out of My Miss Sophia, a graded stakes winner and dual-surface-winning daughter of Unbridled’s Song who captured the 2014 Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct. Annapolis is a full-brother to stakes-placed Nevisian Sunrise. 

Pletcher said he plans on running Shahama, who finished sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, in the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose on June 25 at Belmont. The Munnings bay was unbeaten in four starts in the United Arab Emirates, where she raced for former conditioner Fawzi Nass and captured the Group 3 UAE Oaks in February at Meydan Racecourse. 

Pletcher will pursue a seventh Mother Goose triumph, having won with Jersey Girl [1998], Octave [2007], Devil May Care [2010], Buster’s Ready [2011], Off the Tracks [2016] and Zaajel [2021].

“We zeroed in on the Mother Goose after the Kentucky Oaks and we felt like the mile and a sixteenth suited her a little better than the one-mile Acorn. I’m happy with the way she’s doing,” Pletcher said. 

Shahama, owned by KHK Racing, is out of the Belong to Me mare Private Feeling, making her a half-sister to dual champion and champion producer Lookin At Lucky. 

Probable starters for the Mother Goose are Favor [Pletcher], Gerrymander [Chad Brown], Juju’s Map [Brad Cox], Midnight Stroll [John Terranova] and Venti Valentine [Jorge Abreu]. Both Nostalgic [Bill Mott] and Radio Days [Shug McGaughey] are listed as possible.

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MGSW Bella Sofia’s next start still undecided after G2 Bed o’ Roses triumph

Michael Imperio, Medallion Racing, Sofia Soares, Vincent Scuderi and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Bella Sofia exited her Grade 2 Bed o’ Roses triumph with plenty of energy, but trainer Rudy Rodriguez said her next start is still to be determined.

The 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Patriot is perfect through two starts this year, including a determined nose victory over Frank’s Rockette in the Grade 3 Vagrancy Handicap on May 14 and a half-length score over Grade 1 winner Obligatory in the Bed o’ Roses on June 10. Bella Sofia has put together a sparkling resume that includes a Grade 1 triumph in the Longines Test at Saratoga Race Course last year and the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicapat Belmont. 

Rodriguez said the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina on August 27 at Saratoga could be the dark bay filly’s next target. A win in the Ballerina would provide her a berth for a repeat trip to the Breeders’ Cup in the Grade 1 Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Keeneland. 

“She came back good so far,” Rodriguez said. “She’s been going to the track and I’ve been trying to jog her a little bit but she wants to do more, so that’s a good sign. She looks good. I haven’t talked to the owners to see what the situation is yet, but we’ll nominate her for a couple races at Saratoga and see which ones are good. There’s a race at Keeneland, too. The Ballerina is probably where we want to run. We’ll try to get a little breather for her going into Breeders’ Cup.”

Bella Sofia, who has earned $840,100 through eight lifetime starts, is the fifth Grade 1 winner Rodriguez has conditioned, something he said he is thankful for. 

“It’s great. We don’t have many in the barn like her,” said Rodriguez. “Right now, she’s the queen.” 

A possible successor to Bella Sofia’s throne could be recent stakes winner Hot Peppers, who won Sunday’s Jersey Girl at Belmont with ease under Luis Saez. 

Owned by Michael Dubb and Michael Caruso, the sophomore daughter of Khozan made her first start for Rodriguez in the Jersey Girl and lived up to her post-time favoritism, scoring a frontrunning 6 3/4-length victory in the six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies. 

“She’s got big shoes to fill, but she ran very impressively,” Rodriguez said. “I was kind of surprised. She was training good and the public liked her because she went off as the favorite. Everything came up the right way and she prevailed quite nicely.” 

Rodriguez indicated the bay filly could start in the Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 9 at Belmont before attempting to give him a repeat victory in the Longines Test on August 6. 

“Mr. Dubb mentioned the Victory Ride, so we’ll nominate her for that and see. If I don’t like the way she’s coming, maybe we wait for the Test,” said Rodriguez. “I’m going to work very hard [to win the Test again]. There are a couple fillies that look very interesting, but the way she ran, she can compete right at the top of the division.” 

Rodriguez added that La Marca Stable’s stakes winner Scuttlebuzz exited an 11th-place finish in the Grade 1 Jaipur on June 11 in good order after jockey Javier Castellano lost the crop at the eighth-pole in the six-furlong turf sprint. The son of The Factor entered the Jaipur from a surprise victory in the Elusive Quality over the Belmont lawn on April 30. 

Rodriguez said Scuttlebuzz will have some time to regroup and may target the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 13 at Saratoga. 

“He came back good. That was a tough race,” Rodriguez said. “If I wanted to look for an excuse, to drop the whip at the eighth-pole [wouldn’t be it]. He was already done. We just tried to jump too high. I think we’ve got to look for a race to stretch him out to a mile. We might give him another chance in the Fourstardave.”

The Elkstone Group’s Wudda U Think Now has been away from the races since a cool 4 1/4-length score in the six-furlong Hollie Hughes in February at Aqueduct, a hiatus that was caused by a quarter-crack in his hoof. Rodriguez said the 5-year-old Fast Anna gelding will return in an open allowance in Tuesday’s 10th race at Parx Racing. 

“The quarter-crack caused us to lose a lot of races, but he’s coming along good and I just hope he likes Parx,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully this will be a stepping-stone to something at Saratoga; a stakes going seven-eighths would be perfect.” 

Trevor McCarthy is named to ride Wudda U Think Now from post 3.

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Lovely Lucky to target River Memories; Albertrani tickled by current form of Giggle Factory

Trainer Tom Albertrani said Elizabeth Mateo’s Lovely Lucky, who finished off-the-board in the Grade 1 New York last Friday, will point to the $150,000 River Memories at 12 furlongs for older fillies and mares on July 10 at Belmont Park.

The 6-year-old graded-stakes placed daughter of Lookin At Lucky was third in the early running of the 10-furlong New York before being eased to the finish by jockey Jose Ortiz.

Albertrani said Lovely Lucky, who boasts two wins at 11 furlongs, will appreciate the added ground of the River Memories.

“She was pretty rank in the New York and never really got settled. We’re going to try her back next month in the River Memories,” Albertrani said. 

Lovely Lucky picked up graded black type with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay in May at Belmont.

Robert Masiello’s Giggle Factory has won three of her last four starts, including a half-length score last out in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claimer on June 12 over the Belmont inner turf.

The grey daughter of The Factor is out of the Entrepreneur mare High Finance, whose multiple graded-stakes winning daughter Watsdachances captured the 2015 Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Park.

Giggle Factory has posted a record of 17-5-3-0 for purse earnings of $207,948 and has yet to try stakes company.

“Now that we get out of conditions it would be nice to find her a stake where she could benefit from a little bit of black type,” Albertrani said. “She does have some pedigree that would value from that.”

Giggle Factory graduated at seventh asking in a maiden claimer in October 2020 at Belmont Park and worked her way up the ladder, closing out her 2021 campaign with a smart allowance score over the Belmont turf.

She opened her current campaign with a runner-up effort in February over the Tampa Bay Downs turf and followed with a solid frontrunning score two starts back in an April 9 allowance over the Big A turf that garnered a career-best 88 Beyer.

“She’s really improved quite a bit from last year,” Albertrani said. “She finished up the fall in good form and we just spot her accordingly. We wait to get the right signals from her, and we run her when we think she’s doing well.”

Hickory Plains’ Sweet Sensation failed to fire when last-of-5 in the Grade 2 Wonder Again contested over a yielding turf on June 9 at Belmont.

Albertrani said the sophomore daughter of Tapizar, who won a maiden claimer in April at Tampa, may not have appreciated the soft going.

“Maybe that or a bit of a class markup,” said Albertrani. “We’ll drop her back into a better level where she can be a bit more competitive.”