A pair of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races served as the highlights of a graded stakes triple on Sunday at Belmont at the Big A.
The feature event of the afternoon was the Frizette S. (G1), a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). The one-mile Frizette has produced four of the last five Juvenile Fillies winners, and Chocolate Gelato is developing into a logical threat to keep the success streak alive.
Trained by Todd Pletcher on behalf of Repole Stable, Chocolate Gelato started as the 1.65-1 favorite off an impressive maiden victory at Saratoga, and the daughter of Practical Joke kept her momentum rolling in the Frizette. Reserved in fifth place behind early fractions of :23.14 and :46.90, Chocolate Gelato unleashed a bold far-turn rally under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and stayed on gamely down the homestretch to defeat stubborn pacesetter You’re My Girl by one length.
“She settled through and handled the mile really well,” Pletcher told the New York Racing Association. “I liked the way she turned off, and it gives you the impression two turns is going to be within her range.”
“She was there for me and at the three-eighths pole, she hit the clear and was moving forward on her own,” said Ortiz. “She got to the horse on the lead and was thinking a little bit. It’s only her third start; she’s still learning and I had to work a little more aggressive on her, but she kept responding and got the job done.”
Chocolate Gelato completed one mile over a sloppy track in 1:38.57. Spinaway S. (G1) winner Leave No Trace settled for third place, followed by American Rockette, Vedareo, and The Great Maybe. Raging Sea scratched.
Later in the afternoon, Pletcher and Ortiz picked up a graded stakes double when Spendthrift Farm’s Major Dude posted an upset victory in the 1 1/16-mile Pilgrim S. (G2) over a yielding turf course. The son of Bolt d’Oro tracked splits of :24.10, :49.73, and 1:15.84 from third place before tenaciously outkicking 3-4 favorite I’m Very Busy to prevail by one length in 1:46.60, earning a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
Lachaise, Noble Huntsman, Ramblin’ Wreck, Dataman, Battle of Normandy, Movisitor, Bramble Blaze, Fly Right, and Torigo completed the order of finish. Vacation Dance withdrew.
The Pilgrim marked Major Dude’s first start on turf following a trio of runs on dirt, including a third-place finish in the Sapling S. at Monmouth Park.
“He’s a colt that we’ve really liked from the very beginning,” said Pletcher. “…He was training well on the dirt and we gave him a couple opportunities and we just kind of got the feeling that we weren’t getting everything that we thought we had. So, I saw a couple of Bolt d’Oros were running well on the turf and said, ‘Let’s work him on the turf.’ Then it was like, OK, that’s what we were hoping to see.
“I’m not surprised he stepped up today. He’s always been a very professional, straightforward colt. I’m happy he found what he was looking for.”
Rounding out the graded stakes action was the 1 3/8-mile Waya S. (G3), an unofficial steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Trainer Chad Brown saddled 8-5 favorite Capital Structure, but it was Brown’s second runner Rocky Sky who emerged victorious under jockey Manny Franco, staying within striking distance of pedestrian fractions (:25.31, :51.26, 1:18.54, and 1:43.87) before holding off the deep-closing Capital Structure to score by 1 1/4 lengths.
“Both horses got pretty good trips,” said Brown. “I was concerned a little bit with Rocky Sky around the turn, but she still kicked on. She’s been a difficult horse to figure out. I cut her back, and then stretched her back out. She had me confused for a while. But it became clear that she did, in fact, want to run three turns today.”
Coastana finished seven lengths behind Capital Structure in third place, followed by Tass, Gladys, and Lovely Lucky. Flirting Bridge and Flying Fortress scratched.
Owned by Peter M. Brant, Rocky Sky reached the finish line in 2:21.42 to secure the first graded win of her career. The four-year-old daughter of Rock of Gibraltar is progressing in the right direction, but Brown indicated the Nov. 25 Long Island S. (G3) at Aqueduct is a more likely target than the Breeders’ Cup for both Rocky Sky and Capital Structure.
Six more graded stakes are slated to take place next weekend at Belmont at the Big A. The schedule includes the Vosburgh S. (G2) and the Futurity S. (G3), respective qualifiers for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1).