From the NYRA Media Team:
Godolphin’s Creative Flair and Flaxman Stable’s Group 3 winner Harajuku will invade from across the pond when taking on five American-based contenders in Saturday’s second running of the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational going 1 3/8 miles over the inner turf at Belmont Park.
The Jockey Club Oaks Invitational is the final leg of the filly division of the NYRA’s Turf Triple series for 3-year-olds, which also consists of the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational and Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational. Its male counterpart race, the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational, also is scheduled for Saturday’s 11-race card.
Trainer Charlie Appleby enjoyed success shipping Godolphin-owned Althiqa to New York this season, capturing the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game at Belmont Park and Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga.
For the Jockey Club Oaks, Appleby sends out Creative Flair, who was a last-out third in the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational in her North American debut. The daughter of Dubawi, who was off a step slow, saved ground under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith down the backstretch, angled several paths wide just past the quarter pole and finished third, beaten two lengths.
“The race didn’t ever really set up for her. She jumped a little slowly and got a little bit of a knock,” said Appleby assistant Chris Connett. “The team wanted her to sit a bit closer to the pace than she ended up being and it just didn’t pan out. She’s had a nice break and seems fresh and well and ready to run a big race for us.”
Creative Flair was a three-time winner in England at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles. She ventured outside England for the first time when a close third in the Group 3 Prix Chloe on July 18 at Chantilly in France.
Connett said Creative Flair is arriving at Saturday’s test in good order following her Saratoga effort.
“She traveled back to Newmarket with the rest of the team and had an easy week to 10 days before coming back to full training,” Connett said. “She clearly showed the right signs for Charlie to aim her back here. She’s travelled well and I’m really happy with her. All systems go for Saturday.”
Connett said the wide, sweeping turns at Belmont should suit Creative Flair.
“I think this course will help any of the European horses in the race that are used to a slightly more galloping type track,” Connett said. “Hopefully, with a longer straight and ideally sitting a little closer, it should really help.”
An Irish homebred, Creative Flair is out of the Shamardal mare Hidden Gold, whose dam Melikah is a half-sister to the late internationally acclaimed stallion Galileo and 2009 Cartier Horse of the Year Sea the Stars.
Jockey Jamie Spencer ships stateside to pilot Creative Flair from post 1.
Flaxman Holdings’ Harajuku will look to give France a second Jockey Club Oaks triumph, after Edisa shipped to capture the inaugural edition in 2019.
Trained by Andre Fabre, the bay daughter of Deep Impact captured the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre on May 1 at Saint-Cloud going 1 5/16 miles over next out Group 1 winner Incarville. She arrives off a narrow fourth in the Group Prix de la Nonette on August 23 at Deauville.
An Irish homebred, Harajuku is out of the Galileo mare Phaenomena, who is a full-sister to Group 1-winner Nightime – the dam of 2020 Cartier Horse of the Year Ghaiyyath and Grade 1-winner Zhukova.
Jockey Stephane Pasquier, who guided Wonderment to a runner-up effort in the inaugural Jockey Club Oaks in 2019, ships from France to engineer the trip from post 7.
The Chad Brown-trained pair of Higher Truth and Shantisara are two of five other American-based contenders looking to defend their home turf.
Owned by Mike Ryan, Jeff Drown and Team Hanley, Higher Truth is the only filly to compete in all three legs of this year’s filly division of the Turf Triple series. The daughter of Galileo was beaten by margins of less than a length in both the Belmont Oaks and Saratoga Oaks. After running third beaten a half-length to Santa Barbara in the Belmont Oaks, she missed by three-quarters of a length to Con Lima in the Saratoga Oaks, finishing second.
Higher Truth will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 2.
Shantisara, owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Robert V. LaPenta, will see an increase in ground after making the grade in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at nine furlongs on August 14 at Arlington Park. The daughter of Coulsty made her second start in North America in the Pucker Up, which was her first victory on grass. Previously campaigned in France by trainer Frederic Rossi, Shantisara won twice over the all-weather surface at Chantilly and Marseille in her final two starts of last year.
Jockey Flavien Prat will ride from post 6.
Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey will give third-out maiden winner Baby Blythe a considerable jump in class following a seven-length romp on August 14 in a 1 3/16-mile maiden special weight at Saratoga.
Owned by Donald and Donna Adam’s Courtlandt Farms, the daughter of American Pharoah displayed a devastating turn of foot around the far turn of her maiden score, going from a close fourth to in front by 5 ½ lengths at the next point of call. Third on debut in December at Aqueduct, Baby Blythe did not race until July 24 when sixth to subsequent stakes-winner Rastafara.
“Distance won’t be an issue with her. She has a great turn-of-foot and had a half-sister [Family Way] who won going 10 ½ furlongs at Kentucky Downs,” McGaughey said. “She probably needed her second race since she hadn’t run in so long. We got it in her and next time she won.”
Jockey Luis Saez, fresh off a riding title at Saratoga, will ride Baby Blythe from post 3.
Completing the field are Augustin Stables’ Be Up [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], a two-time winner for trainer Jonathan Thomas, and Kaleem Shah’s Madone [post 5, John Velazquez], a dual graded stakes winning West Coast invader for trainer Simon Callaghan.
The Jockey Club Oaks Invitational is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which also features the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational at 12 furlongs on turf in Race 10; as well as the $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational at 13 furlongs on the main track in Race 4. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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