From the NYRA Media Team:
Four Godolphin runners trained by Charlie Appleby – Rebel’s Romance, Desert Peace , Summer Romance and Althiqa – arrived at Belmont Park at 11 a.m. Sunday to prepare for starts during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that runs from Thursday, June 3 through Saturday, June 5, headlined by the 153rd running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
The geldings Rebel’s Romance and Desert Peace started their journey from Dubai to Belgium, while the fillies Summer Romance and Althiqa, shipped from the U.K. to join the duo before their flight to New York. All four horses will remain in quarantine until Tuesday morning.
“They all shipped well and are very relaxed,” said traveling assistant Sophie Chretien, who will oversee training and saddling duties for the talented quartet. “We’re here early so we’ll have more time to get settled in and get used to Belmont.”
The festival will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.
Group 2 UAE Derby-winner Rebel’s Romance is set to compete in the Belmont Stakes on June 5. The sophomore son of Dubawi, an Irish homebred out of the Street Cry mare Minidress, has won 4-of-5 starts.
Following a fourth in the Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in February, Rebel’s Romance made the grade last out with a 5 1/2-length score in the 1 3/16-mile Group 2 UAE Derby on March 27 at Meydan.
“It was a very good race and it showed he has matured a lot,” said Chretien of the UAE Derby effort. “He went to Saudi before the run at Meydan and it took him a while to mature, but he has matured a lot and he won the Derby with class. We just have to keep his mind relaxed because to do well in these big races you need a horse as cool as possible in his head.”
Chretien said the sizable gelding should appreciate the stretch out in distance.
“I think he’s built that way and more distance will suit him,” said Chretien. “He’s a big boy.”
Desert Peace, a 4-year-old son of Curlin, was a $1.3 million purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Bred in Kentucky by Doug and Felicia Branham, the colt’s stakes-winning dam Stoweshoe is a full-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire mare Taris.
Desert Peace was a nose winner last out traveling one-mile on May 11 over the Meydan main track.
While no specific target is confirmed yet for Desert Peace, the Grade 2, $300,000 True North, a 6 ½-furlong sprint for 4-year-olds and up on June 4 is a possibility.
“We’ll see how he trains, but he could aim for the True North. Time will tell,” said Chretien.
Summer Romance and Althiqa, who finished first and third last out in the nine-furlong Group 2 Balanchine on February 18 at Meydan respectively, are targeting the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game, a one-mile turf event for older fillies and mares.
“The two fillies are physically very similar. They both won in Dubai and will run in the same race here in New York,” said Chretien.
Summer Romance, a 4-year-old daughter of Kingman out of the Statue of Liberty mare Serena’s Storm, is a half-sister to multiple Group 1-winning millionaire Rizeena.
Bred in Ireland by Roundhill Stud, Summer Romance captured the 1 1/16-mile Group 3 Princess Elizabeth in July at Epsom. Last out, in her second start of the season, Summer Romance won the Balanchine by 2 ¼-lengths at Meydan.
Althiqa, a British homebred by Dark Angel and out of the Shamardal mare Mistrusting, won the Prix Amandine in July at Deauville in France ahead of a trio of group placings to close out her sophomore season. The grey filly launched her 4-year-old campaign in style with a score in the Group 2 Cape Verdi at Meydan ahead of her third in the Balanchine.
Appleby previously indicated a good result in the Just a Game could see Summer Romance try her luck in the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana, a nine-furlong turf test for older fillies and mares on July 17 at Saratoga.
“Summer Romance is one who can handle a little more distance going forward,” said Chretien.
For more information, visit www.BelmontStakes.com.
Tribhuvan registers 105 Beyer in G2 Fort Marcy; G1 Irish Derby-winner Sovereign breezes for G1 Man o’ War
Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso’s Tribhuvan earned a lofty 105 Beyer Speed Figure in capturing his first start in 10 months in the nine-furlong Grade 2, $200,000 Fort Marcy over the inner turf at Belmont Park.
Trained by Chad Brown, the 5-year-old gelded son of Toronado displayed frontrunning tactics, establishing command into the first turn and kicking well clear down the backstretch. Approaching the far turn, New York-bred stakes-winner City Man took aim at Tribhuvan, who found more en route to a 1 ½ length score.
In his previous effort, Tribhuvan bested allowance optional claiming company on July 4 over Belmont’s Widener turf course, where he was eight lengths off a leisurely pace and battled gamely to the outside of graded stakes winner Ballagh Rocks in the stretch, besting his rival by a nose.
“He’s a horse we had high hopes for last year,” said Brown’s assistant Dan Stupp. “He ran in the Fort Marcy last year and his rein broke hitting the gate. He needed some time after his allowance win. He came back, trained well and he’s one of these horses that you want to see run before getting too high on him. He went out there and obviously ran them off their feet. He came out of the race well.”
Tribhuvan provided a fourth straight – and fifth overall – victory in the Fort Marcy, adding to a list which includes Big Blue Kitten , Robert Bruce , Olympico  and Instilled Regard .
Stupp also saddled multiple graded stakes-placed Rockemperor and graded stakes-winner Devamani, who ran a respective third and fourth in their 2021 debuts.
“They both looked like they potentially needed the race,” Stupp said. “They’re older horses and sometimes they need one off the bench to get them refocused. They both came back great, so we’ll regroup with them and go as if they needed the race.”
Brown sent out My Sister Nat and Orglandes in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay – the last of three graded stakes events carded for Saturday. The pair of graded stakes-winning mares did not fire in their first starts of the year and finished a respective fourth and sixth to Magic Attitude.
“It wasn’t the most favorable pace set up,” Stupp said. “Orglandes didn’t really kick on at all. There’s better races ahead for both of them. They came out of the race fine. I would expect better performances down the line from both of them.”
The Brown barn will attempt more graded stakes success on Saturday, where the conditioner has probable entrants in three of the five graded stakes races, including the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War where he will send out 2019 Group 1 Irish Derby-winner Sovereign for his North American debut.
Sovereign previously raced in Europe for trainer Aidan O’Brien and was Group 1 placed last year when second in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Ascot.
The son of international champion sire Galileo put together a series of works over the winter at Payson Park in South Florida before shipping to Belmont for a pair of breezes. On Sunday, Sovereign went five furlongs over the inner turf in company with Nay Lady Nay in 1:02.54.
“He worked fantastic,” said Stupp. “We worked him on the main track last week and this week, he worked five-eighths on the grass. It was a big difference in the turf, which is to be expected.”
Dual graded stakes-winner Nay Lady Nay is probable for Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Beaugay.
Also working on the turf were Peter Brant’s Lemista, a dual group stakes winner in her native Ireland, who went five furlongs in 1:01.55 in preparation for the Beaugay.
Juddmonte Farms’ Pocket Square went a half-mile in tandem with graded stakes winner Tamahere completing their work in 49 seconds flat.
Swift Thoroughbreds, Madaket Stables and Wonder Stables’ Tamahere was second in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland last out on April 10, while Pocket Square was an impressive allowance winner on April 7 at Keeneland.
“They went great,” Stupp said. “I really liked what I saw. It was the first time I worked Pocket Square since she won at Keeneland. Both fillies were impressive this morning.”
Kantarmaci continues dominance in Under 20’s Claiming Challenge with another title during Aqueduct stint
Trainer Mertkan Kantarmaci continued his domination of NYRA’s “Under 20s Claiming Challenge” with another title for the concluded winter/spring meet at Aqueduct Racetrack, marking the fourth consecutive time he has finished atop the leaderboard.
The “Under 20s Claiming Challenge,” launched in 2018, is open to local trainers with 20 or fewer horses nationwide. The most recently completed challenge launched on December 10, Opening Day of the 56-day winter meet, and ran through the 11-day Big A spring meet that concluded April 18.
Kantarmaci topped the standings, racking up 133 points in the unique contest that highlighted horses’ performances in winners’ claiming races on the main track. Randi Persaud was second with 83 points, with Edward Barker  and A.C. Avila  rounding out the quartet who cracked the 60-point threshold.
The top-eight trainers in the contest shared a prize pool of $80,000, with Kantarmaci earning the first-place prize of $16,000.
The outright win for Kantarmaci followed a 2020 in which he tied Barker for the title during the Big A’s winter meet. The Turkish-born conditioner was also the stand-alone challenge winner for the 2018-19 winter meet and the 2019 Belmont Park spring/summer meet.
“It’s a great feeling and to get a title like this racing in New York, I’m really delighted with that,” Kantarmaci said. “It shows we can have consistent success with the claiming horses, and most of them have improved from when they were claimed, and some of them have gone on to allowance races. I couldn’t get points with those, but of course, I made money with them by moving them up.”
When the winter and spring meets are factored in, Kantarmaci compiled a 10-12-9 record with 74 starters, finishing in the money 41.89 percent of the time and winning at a 13.51 percent clip, with his horses earning $600,617.
“I think I’m one of the best claiming trainers in New York right now,” Kantarmaci said. “I’ve won a few at Aqueduct and one Belmont. So, it shows we can do well at Belmont and at Aqueduct, which has a long winter meet. There aren’t many young trainers in New York; just a few. It’s hard to win that much with just claiming horses. But it’s gotten people’s attention and some owners have asked us if we’re available to train their horses, so a claiming title like this in New York has been really helpful.”
Among Kantarmaci’s highlights for the concluded Big A stint was the Chilean-bred Mi Tres Por Ciento in an $84,000 allowance optional claimer title on December 19 and an allowance optional claimer worth $84,000 on February 13. Reed Kan also won two of his four starts during the Claiming Championship period, while Dust Devil won a claiming title on January 18 and added another victory in a starter allowance race on April 1.
Looking to parlay that success to the current meet, Kantarmaci has two runners entered for Sunday’s program, with Castagno entered for Race 4, a $55,000 claiming contest, and Front Man entered in a $55,000 starter allowance in Race 6.
Overall, Kantarmaci said he has 19 horses in his barn at Belmont and praised NYRA for continuing to sponsor the Claiming Challenge Series.
“We are really happy and thankful for the opportunities it gives to claiming trainers,” Kantarmaci said. “Maybe one day, I’ll have high-class stakes horses and maybe some others will have the opportunity to take advantage of this claiming challenge as well.”
The Under 20’s Claiming Challenge continues into the current spring/summer meet at Belmont Park, which started April 22 and runs through Closing Day of the 48-day meet on Sunday, July 11. This contest encompasses both main track and turf contests.
To retain eligibility, there can be no more than 20 horses on a trainer’s roster at any given time, although a trainer’s stable may grow above 20 horses through claiming activity. But only roster horses can earn points. A trainer may replace a claimed horse who was on their roster with another claimed horse. After a horse is claimed, it will be added to the trainer’s roster only at the trainer’s request.
Horses in for a tag in an allowance optional claiming race will qualify for contest points. Points are not earned in maiden, allowance, starter allowance or stakes races.
A horse that ends up on the stewards’ list for poor performance [defeated 25 or more lengths] will not earn the trainer points for that race. Horses that are running for 50 percent or less of the claiming price from their most recent start will only be eligible to earn 50 percent of the typical points for that race.
In addition, horses can only earn contest points for two races within a given 30-day time period. A horse may enter in additional races during that timeframe but will not earn contest points for those additional races.
For more information, please contact the racing office at 718-659-4241.
Belmont Park Week 3 stakes probables
Saturday, May 8
Grade 3, $150,000 Beaugay
Probable: Civil Union (Shug McGaughey), Harveys Lil Goil (Bill Mott), Lemista (Chad Brown), Nay Lady Nay (Chad Brown), Platinum Paynter (Juan Vazquez)
Possible: Call Me Love (Christophe Clement)
Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy
Probable: Honor Way (Charlton Baker), Kiss the Girl (Mike Trombetta), Pacific Gale (John Kimmel), Sadie Lady (Rob Atras), Victim of Love (Todd Beattie)
Possible: Frank’s Rockette (Bill Mott), Shyza (John Servis)
Grade 3, 150,000 Runhappy
Probable: Chateau (Rob Atras), Drafted (David Duggan), Firenze Fire (Kelly Breen), Stan the Man (John Terranova)
Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan
Probable: Overtook (Todd Pletcher), Promise Keeper (Todd Pletcher), Risk Taking (Chad Brown), Weyburn (Jimmy Jerkens), Wolfie’s Dynaghost (Tom Albertrani)
Possible: Nova Rags (Bill Mott)
Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’War
Probable: Arklow (Brad Cox), Channel Cat (Todd Pletcher), Field Pass (Mike Maker), Gufo (Christophe Clement), Moon Over Miami (Bill Mott), Sadler’s Joy (Tom Albertrani), Sovereign (Chad Brown), Ziyad (Graham Motion)
Sunday, May 9
$100,000 Gold Fever
Probable: Beren (Robert Reid, Jr.), Doubleoseven (Jeremiah O’Dwyer), Return the Ring (Eddie Barker), Roderick (Wesley Ward)
Possible: American Gentleman (Natalia Lynch), Candy Man Rocket (Bill Mott), The Wolfman (Phil Schoenthal), Wizky’s On the Bay (Edward Coletti, Jr.)