From the NYRA Media Team:

‘The call is coming from inside the house!’ Such should be the underlying competition-unnerving theme for nearly every major American turf Grade 1 since Charlie Appleby decided to triple his stateside-based string to almost 20-strong this spring and summer. The winner of 10 Breeders’ Cup races from just 20 starters sports a 25-7-7-5 American record in 2024 and nearly $2.8 million in purses, with all victories coming in graded stakes, including a pair at the top level.


Appleby seeks to add a third on Saturday, one day after his 49th birthday, when he saddles highly regarded Godolphin homebred Cinderella’s Dream in the 46th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks Invitational, a 1 3/16-mile outer turf test for sophomore fillies each assigned 121 pounds. He will also run Legend of Time in the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational earlier in the card.


The master of Moulton Paddocks, who has struck at 37 percent since winning with his first stateside starter in 2013, also landed Keeneland’s Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile with Master of The Seas in April and the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan with Measured Time on Belmont Stakes Day June 8 at Saratoga Race Course. His current mark of 24 North American Grade 1 wins make up 65 percent of his stateside victories, made even more impressive by the fact that there were four years between his first and second wins – both coming at the Breeders’ Cup.


Cinderella’s Dream, a daughter of late super-sire and speed influence Shamardal, looks another astutely placed sort at the top tier, but must rebound from her last run. The compact filly’s fairy tale career – landing her first four starts, including a wow-worthy 5 1/2-length win in Meydan’s Listed Jumeirah 1000 Guineas with a slipped saddle – turned into a pumpkin last out in the Group 1 1000 Guineas on May 5 at Newmarket. Remaining mid-pack throughout, she finished a 4 1/4-length seventh of 16. To her credit, she was a neck to the good of next-out Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Fallen Angel.


Having arrived and settled into Godolphin’s Greentree adjacent to Saratoga last month, the daughter of 10-furlong-winning Dubawi mare Espadrille enters off a two-month freshening and steps up beyond one mile for the first time. William Buick will ride from post 8.


“Cinderella’s Dream did well in Dubai, so she’s adapted to that flat, round-track style of racing,” Appleby said. “I thought she ran a creditable race in the Guineas and I feel the step up to this trip should suit. Her training at Saratoga, where she’s been for some time, has gone well. She’s done everything that needs to be done down there. I feel she’ll be a big player on Saturday. She’s got plenty of experience under her belt and quick ground will suit her, as well. Those tight tracks will suit her, as she’s a neat filly.”


Guy Brook’s live contender Secret Satire’s [post 5, Frankie Dettori] rating of 104 is just one pound shy of Cinderella’s Dream. The homebred Andrew Balding-trained daughter of Advertise was a 22-1 upset winner of May’s Group 3 Musidora over York’s left-handed, flat course. After a trio of efforts at or beyond 10 furlongs, including a disappointing 10th-of-12 in the Group 1 [English] Oaks last out on May 31 at Epsom, she drops in distance and hopes to give her conditioner a third North American Grade 1, as well as a bit of retribution after a hard-luck second with favorite The Foxes in last year’s Belmont Derby.


While Balding has yet to win a graded stakes in America – both of his Grade 1s and a Grade 2 coming in Canada – he twice placed in the Grade 1 Arlington Million [2013-14] with Side Glance and was second in the 2015 Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont with subsequent Grade 1 E. P. Taylor winner Blond Me. Frankie Dettori picks up the mount on Secret Satire, a two-time winner from five runs.


“I’ve been very happy with Secret Satire since Epsom,” Balding said. “She was disappointing that day, but we thought it was probably a combination of not handling the unusual track at Epsom – she didn’t come down the hill very well – and possibly the ground was slower than ideal for her. Hopefully the return to a faster, sounder racing surface will suit her well. Obviously, she was very impressive winning the Musidora, which is an important race at the beginning of our season, and that should enable her to be competitive if she brings that same form to America. She’s arrived safely and the travel so far has been good. We are hoping for the best.”


Another crossing the Atlantic with solid form lines is Irish-bred filly Fun With Flags [post 3, Manny Franco], a three-time winner from four starts trained by 39-year-old Marseille-based upstart Jérôme Reynier.


Last seen finishing second in Saint-Cloud’s Group 3 Prix Cleopatre, Fun With Flags was victorious in the Listed Prix Rose de Mai to kick off her season there in March. Cutting back in distance after a pair of 10-furlong runs, the 99-rated daughter of Zoffany was previously campaigned by Erika Gilliar and will now run for new owners Madaket Stables, Michael E. Kisber, Gainesway Stable and Erika Gilliar.


Splashing onto the global scene by winning the inaugural Bahrain International Trophy in 2019 with Royal Julius, Reynier also campaigned 2021 Group 1 winners Skalleti and Marianafoot, as well as current stable star Facteur Cheval, who supplied his biggest win to date in March’s Group 1, $5 million Dubai Turf. Reynier is currently ranked third in the French standings [wins] behind Jean-Claude Rouget and Christophe Escuder, while ahead of titans Francis-Henri Graffard and Andre Fabre.


“Fun With Flags has been traveling well,” Reynier said. “She will only be able to train [from] Wednesday, which is very tight before Saturday’s race. She has never been racing on firm ground, but we think she should adapt herself pretty well. The ground in the Cleopatre was way too patchy and soft for her and she hated it. She is racing for her new American connections and will be staying here afterward.”


Those new connections include four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, himself sending a pair of runners to clash with his soon-to-be pupil.


Klaravich Stables’ Dynamic Pricing [post 2, Flavien Prat], a $204,442 Tattersalls October 2022 purchase, exits a smart victory in the Grade 2 Edgewood over yielding turf at Churchill Downs on May 3. The daughter of Night of Thunder hails from a deep Aga Khan family, thus being of little surprise that she adored the cut in the Kentucky ground. A possible return to quick/firm going, over which she is 1-for-3, may be her lone query. Klaravich Stables won the race two years ago with another Brown-trained Tattersalls October purchase, McKulick.


Juddmonte’s Kentucky homebred Segesta [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] completes the pair for the six-time Belmont Oaks-winning conditioner and has improved incrementally through four starts. By Ghostzapper, she is out of the Brown-trained 2017 Grade 1 Just a Game winner Antonoe and exits a victory in the Grade 2 Wonder Again over reopposing Sy B.


Trainer Cherie DeVaux will start Blue Heaven Farm’s aforementioned Sy B [post 9, Tyler Gaffalione] as well as Lael Stables’ She Feels Pretty [post 7, John Velazquez].


Like Segesta, Sy B entered the Wonder Again after graduating at Keeneland in her third lifetime attempt, acquitting herself well with the class jump. An increase in trip appears ideal for the daughter of champion English Channel and three-time NYRA stakes winner Ocean Drive, who was co-campaigned by namesake Sy Baskin.


“I think she was green trying to go through a small hole up the inside [in the Wonder Again],” DeVaux said. “I think that made the difference. She had the horse – she was just lightly raced [and] got intimidated going up in there. She has shown that she has a lot of ability and can handle the distance with her breeding.”


She Feels Pretty looks a serious player if on-song over this distance for DeVaux and Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael operation, which seeks its third win in the race, following Check the Label [2010] and Magic Attitude [2020].


A half-length third as the 7-2 favorite in November’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, She Feels Pretty was a dominant winner of Woodbine’s Grade 1 Natalma seven weeks prior. In her 2024 comeback run, last out, she ascended Pimlico’s Hilltop in facile fashion. A daughter of Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Karakontie, she steps beyond eight furlongs for the first time.


“She ran well [in the Hilltop],” DeVaux explained. “She has progressed from age two to three. All things that we look for. We are going to find out if she can handle [the distance]. She has not seemed distance-compromised right now, as of yet, so it will be interesting to see how she handles it.”


Rigney Racing’s Phil Bauer-trained homebred Buchu [post 4, Joel Rosario], a 2 3/4-length sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, was second last out on June 1 in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Regret to Pin Up Betty [post 1, Jose Lezcano], who reopposes.


A dual Keeneland Grade 2 winner, Buchu is a daughter of in-vogue stallion Justify and the Galileo mare Flowering Peach – a half-sister to Medaglia d’Oro – suggesting that the step up in trip could be welcome.


“In her last race, she had to wait,” Bauer explained. “Luis [Saez, aboard Pin Up Betty] moved early enough to put us in a spot in the middle of the turn and got the jump on us. I thought she was good enough that day to win if she got the same type of trip, but it gave Pin Up Betty a bit of a head start. She was getting to her, but just ran out of time. It’s just a matter of trip in a lot of these turf races, so hopefully we get a good one. You’re only three once, so let’s swing at it. The outliers are the Europeans, but we’ve been within a rock’s throw of any of the American horses, so you’re confident you can turn the tables.”


Completing the field is the aforementioned Pin Up Betty, campaigned by breeder Three Diamonds Farm and trained by Mike Maker. The daughter of Constitution dominated a nine-furlong turf maiden on May 9 at Churchill Downs before earning centerfold status 22 days later in the Regret.


The Belmont Oaks is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race card which also features the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational in Race 6, the Grade 2, $200,000 John A. Nerud in Race 8, and the Grade 2, $200,000 Dwyer in Race 2. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

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