February 22, 2024

Jouster faces distance test in competitive Wonder Again

Jouster wins the 2021 Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland (Coady Photography)

Wonder Again S. (G3) — Race 8 (6:45 p.m. ET)

Jouster will look to stretch her speed over 1 1/8 miles on Thursday when she heads a field of 10 three-year-old fillies in the $200,000 Wonder Again S. (G3) at Belmont Park, the leading local prep for next month’s Belmont Oaks (G1).

Jouster is a nose away from being perfect in four starts on the grass, with a photo-finish loss in the Florida Oaks (G3) two back the only hiccup. The daughter of Noble Mission rebounded with a victory in the Appalachian (G3) at Keeneland after setting easy fractions against Gift List and Miss Grillo (G2) winner Plum Ali, who later finished first and third, respectively, in the Edgewood (G2) at Churchill Downs.

“She’s a naturally fast filly and it seems like she’s starting to settle a bit,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It’s sort of a pivotal race for us in terms of which direction we go with her. If she can handle a mile and an eighth, we may look at some of those races that are a little longer. If not, we’ll cut back in distance.”

In addition to Jouster, Pletcher has also entered multiple stakes winner Con Lima, who also has a bit of early foot but not as much, Pletcher feels, as Jouster.

“I think Jouster is naturally quicker and Con Lima has shown that she can sit just off the pace,” Pletcher said.

Chad Brown will be represented by Fluffy Socks, a two-time stakes winner as a juvenile and runner-up in the Memories of Silver S. at Aqueduct in her season debut April 18, and stakes debuter Technical Analysis, a daughter of Kingman who’s won twice from three starts.

“She got into a lot of trouble in her last race and, as you can see last year when we were developing her, she’s a little better when you get a race under her belt,” said Brown of Fluffy Socks, who won the Jimmy Durante (G3) at Del Mar last fall. “She’s trained that way, too. Now that she’s got a race, she’s sharpened up a bit in her training, too.”

Intercontinental S. (G3) — Race 6 (5:43 p.m. ET)

Regal Glory‘s brief, three-race 2020 campaign was made less successful by stablemate Newspaperofrecord, who beat Regal Glory in two of those races. Regal Glory will attempt to make amends in one, the $200,000 Intercontinental S. (G3), on Friday.

Second by four lengths to Newspaperofrecord in the seven-furlong Intercontinental last season, Regal Glory fared no better than fourth to that speedy rival in the Just a Game (G1) next out. However, she ended her campaign on a better note with a neck victory in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3), and opened her 2021 account scoring by a half-length in the April 11 Plenty of Grace S. at Aqueduct.

“Regal Glory is doing super and she knows this race well,” Brown said. “With the forecast the way it is, and as you can see in her past performances, she handles soft ground very well. It could end up working out for her.”

A multiple graded stakes winner at three, the five-year-old Regal Glory is joined in the Intercontinental by fellow Chad Brown trainee Publication, a Juddmonte homebred daughter of Tapit and Grade 2 heroine Filimbi who’s won two of three starts in overnight company in a truncated career thus far.

“We’ve thought a lot of Publication since the beginning,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, she’s had a lot of interruptions in her development, but she’s doing really well right now. She’s a fiery filly with a lot of Tapit in her in a good way and is very forward in her training.

“She’s all racehorse and every time she’s there for you in her work. I’ve been really looking forward to getting her into stakes races, but unfortunately because of some minor setbacks, I haven’t been able to do it.”

Other leading contenders include Sweet Bye and Bye, winner of the Sand Springs S. at Gulfstream last out, and Kentucky invader Change of Control, who captured the 5 1/2-furlong Giant’s Causeway S. at Keeneland two back. 

Astoria S. — Race 7 (6:15 p.m. ET)

The $150,000 Astoria S. for two-year-old fillies figures to have a heavy favorite in Happy Soul, a Wesley Ward-trained daughter of Runhappy who strolled to an 11 3/4-length maiden at Belmont on May 13 in her second career start.

“She’s a nice filly and ran a good race. It looks like she can still grow into a nice frame,” Ward said.

The field of six includes only one other prior winner, American Bound, who followed up her debut victory at Keeneland with a fifth-place finish in a filly-dominated edition of the Kentucky Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Butch Reid has cross-entered first-time starter Mainstay in the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria and in a maiden at Monmouth Park on Friday. Mainstay is an Astern half-sister to 2020 champion juvenile filly Vequist, whom Reid also trains.

RELATED: Get to know the Belmont Stakes contenders here!