It would be anthropomorphic to call Friday’s $500,000 New York (G2) a grudge match, but Sea Calisi has a right to view it that way after her frustratingly unlucky second to stablemate Dacita here a year ago. Now those two Chad Brown turf celebrities meet again for the first time since, in a loaded renewal of the 1 1/4-mile test during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Sea Calisi, another top-class European import by Martin Schwartz, opened her U.S. career with a handy victory in the 2016 Sheepshead Bay (G2). Favored once again to follow up in the New York, the daughter of Youmzain had a checkered passage before missing by three-quarters of a length. Sea Calisi bounced back by capturing the Beverly D. (G1), but settled for third to stablemate Lady Eli in the Flower Bowl (G1) and seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Reappearing in the May 6 Sheepshead Bay, Sea Calisi enjoyed the yielding conditions to roll over a troubled Suffused.
Dacita, a Chilean champion acquired by Sheep Pond Partners and Bradley Thoroughbreds, turned back in trip after upending Sea Calisi. Up in time in a frenetic Diana (G1) at Saratoga, the Scat Daddy mare was then an ultra-game second by a nose on unsuitable going in the Canadian (G2). The firm-turf lover would have relished the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, but she unfortunately was sidelined. Dacita regrouped for a 2017 campaign, and she picked up right where she left off. In the May 13 Beaugay (G3), she met yielding ground and a loose-on-the-lead Hawksmoor, and she came up a head shy. Irad Ortiz Jr. maintains his partnership with Dacita, leaving Florent Geroux to regain the mount on Sea Calisi.
Suffused may not have beaten Sea Calisi in the Sheepshead Bay anyway, but her traffic woes just as the winner circled the field put paid to her chances. The Juddmonte homebred gained on Sea Calisi once finally free, prompting the question of how close she might have been with a clean trip. The Bill Mott trainee burst onto the American scene at this Festival last June, romping in track-record time in the Belmont Coronation Invitational, and she went on to garner the Glens Falls (G3) and drop a pair of photos in the Waya (G3) and E.P. Taylor (G1). Like sire Champs Elysees, she continued to improve with age. Suffused looked to have reached another level when landing the La Prevoyante (G3) and The Very One (G3) at Gulfstream, a proposition that will be tested here. Jose Ortiz, who was not aboard for her Sheepshead Bay miscue, reunites with her.
German-bred Quidura looms as an intriguing contender for Graham Motion. The Dubawi half to highweights Querari and Quasillo is bred to excel at this distance, so her strong performances going shorter may be a hint of her real ability. Victorious in last fall’s Valley View (G3), Quidura resumed with an encouraging third to Dickinson and Lady Eli in the April 15 Jenny Wiley (G1). Now the lightly raced four-year-old picks up Javier Castellano.
Also coming out of the Jenny Wiley is Kitten’s Roar, who was a fast-finishing fourth for Mike Maker and another on pedigree eligible to enjoy the added ground. Apple Betty, a remote third behind Sea Calisi and Suffused in the Sheepshead Bay, is a full sister to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) star Magician. Another full sibling, Outstanding, was third in Lady Eli’s Belmont Oaks in 2015.
Hawksmoor faces a distance question, having been run down late in last year’s Prix Saint-Alary (G1), Kilboy Estate (G2) and in her U.S. debut in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1). Stamina isn’t an issue for Summersault, last seen taking the 1 3/8-mile Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream, or American Oaks (G1) near-misser Sassy Little Lila, a half-sister to Pomology who scored over this inner turf course and distance last fall. A front-running allowance winner at Churchill in her May 20 comeback, she will be cross-entered to Saturday’s Just a Game (G1). The Brad Cox trainee has ownership in common with Dacita, both co-owned by Sheep Pond Partners.
If the New York is laden with imports, the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (G3) is laden with European shippers enticed by the $400,000 purse for a two-mile affair. Six of the 13 are invading from across the pond.
Willie Mullins, Ireland’s perennial champion jumps trainer, dispatches Wicklow Brave, who famously upset Order of St George in last September’s Irish St Leger (G1), and Clondaw Warrior, runner-up in the American St Leger (G3) in his prior U.S. raid. Both have reverted to hurdling, and Wicklow Brave just won the April 28 Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Mullins has booked top jockeys in Castellano for Wicklow Brave and John Velazquez for Clondaw Warrior.
Julien Leparoux reunites with French invader Now We Can, a hard-charging second in this race last year from post 12. Nicolas Clement’s veteran is much better drawn in post 3 on Friday. Sir Mark Prescott has engaged Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride St Michel, third in the 2016 Doncaster Cup (G2) at the tender age of three and likely to progress at four. Geroux gets the call for Hugo Palmer’s Wall of Fire, another up-and-comer in this division.
Last-out Oleander-Rennen (G2) victor Red Cardinal makes the trek from Germany for Andreas Wohler (who has Potemkin for Saturday’s Manhattan [G1]). In contrast to the other Europeans, he brings jockey Eddie Pedroza along with him.
Spearheading the American-based contingent is Taghleeb from the Maker barn. After breaking Gulfstream’s two-mile course record in the H. Allen Jerkens, he successfully cut back to 1 1/2 miles in the W.L. McKnight (G3). Taghleeb exits a distant second to Dermot Weld’s Zhukova in the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War (G1) and stands to benefit back up in trip.
Other contenders include Sycamore (G3) victor Renown, a Juddmonte cast-off who has won four of his past five for Elizabeth Voss; Bullards Alley, third as the defending champion in the Louisville H. (G3); Shadwell homebred Farz, who stretches out off a fourth in the Fort Marcy (G3) for Kiaran McLaughlin; multiple Grade 3-placed Roman Approval, just claimed off Maker by David Cannizzo; and Hunter O’Riley and Wayward Kitten, first and third in a recent Keeneland allowance.