The filly Magic Wand is no stranger to facing males and will seek to her earn her first Grade 1 win of her career against them on Saturday in the $700,000 Man o’ War (G1) at Belmont Park over 1 3/8 miles on the turf.
Magic Wand is one of two Man o’ War entries representing Coolmore and trainer Aidan O’Brien, the other being Hunting Horn. Both have run well in previous jaunts to the U.S., but are looking to rebound from unplaced efforts in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan.
Runner-up to Bricks and Mortar in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) two back and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) three back, Magic Wand captured the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot last summer and was twice Group 1-placed in Europe before the Breeders’ Cup. Hunting Horn, also victorious at Royal Ascot, placed in the Belmont Derby (G1) and W.L. McKnight (G3) in four prior runs in the States.
“The two of them traveled in well. They’re in good shape,” said traveling assistant T. J. Comerford. “It didn’t go to plan in Dubai, but they’ve run well when they came over here.”
A number of the better staying grass horses in the country will take their shot against the Irish invaders. Focus Group was just up to win the March 30 Pan American (G2) by a nose in his season debut, but has yet to win in four prior tries on the Belmont turf. Village King is also shortening up a furlong after setting the pace in the Pan American, in which he was beaten only a length into third.
Zulu Alpha won the McKnight and Mac Diarmida (G2) before getting run down late in the Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland on softish ground. Channel Maker won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and Bowling Green (G2) last year, but has been unplaced in his last three. Epical invades from California where he recently landed the San Luis Rey (G2), while multiple graded stakes winner Arklow gets a mulligan after losing jockey Florent Geroux at the start of his allowance comeback at Keeneland last month.
Smaller fields are involved in the other five stakes on Saturday’s program. The $200,000 Beaugay (G3) attracted six fillies and mares to go 1 1/16 miles on the turf, led by the the Chad Brown-trained Homerique. A Kentucky-bred previously based in France, she was a Group 3 winner in that country but ran a strong third in both the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) and Prix de l’Opera (G1).
Her stablemate, Competitionofideas, rebounded from a third-place finish to Matty’s Magnum in an off-the-turf stakes at Aqueduct to win the American Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita on December 29. Forecasted rain on Friday might leave the turf less than firm for Saturday, but Brown was not concerned.
“I don’t think it [soft turf] will bother her,” he said. “She’s run well on it before.”
The field also includes Chipolata, third in the Belmont Oaks (G1) last summer and a recent allowance winner at Aqueduct; Binti Al Nar, a Group 3 winner in Italy last fall for her German connections; and Grade 3 winner Andina Del Sur.
Intrepid Heart, a Todd Pletcher-trained son of Tapit, enters the $300,000 Peter Pan (G3) two-for-two following a 7 3/4-length maiden win at Oaklawn Park in February and a half-length allowance tally at Keeneland last month. While he stretches out farther here to 1 1/8-miles, the gray will competing around one turn for the first time. Intrepid Heart is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Commissioner, who placed in both the Peter Pan and Belmont S. (G1) five years ago.
“He’s probably a little quicker than Commissioner was, but hopefully he has the same kind of ability to stay the route of ground,” Pletcher said. “He’s been pretty straight forward so far once we got him going. They have some similarities, but I’d say that Intrepid Heart was a little later to blossom. Commissioner was a very mature two-year-old early on.”
Pletcher also sends out Grade 3-placed Federal Case, but Intrepid Hero’s most serious competition may come from Global Campaign, who captured his first two starts but was a last-out fifth after grabbing a quarter in the Fountain of Youth (G2), and Final Jeopardy, sixth in the Wood Memorial (G2) after a troubled start. The latter is campaign by Gary and Mary West and is trained by Jason Servis, the connections of Maximum Security, who was disqualified from first in last week’s Kentucky Derby (G1).
Separationofpowers, whose top-level wins include the 2017 Frizette (G1) and 2018 Test (G1), returns to action for the first time since September in the $200,000 Vagrancy H. (G3). The 6 1/2-furlong dash for fillies and mares is the opening event on the 11-race card.
Separationofpowers had surgery to remove an ankle chip after running fourth in the Cotillion (G1) when last seen. Lining up against her are Pacific Gale, Dawn the Destroyer, and Holiday Disguise, all of whom were well beaten by Come Dancing in the April 5 Distaff H. (G3) at Aqueduct, and the Ohio-bred Heavenhasmynikki.
A field of six older sprinters square off in the $150,000 Runhappy over six furlongs, including graded stakes winners Firenze Fire, Recruiting Ready, and Skyler’s Scramjet.