The $400,000 Man o’ War is the Grade 1 feature at Belmont Park on Saturday, but that grade could easily apply to an outstanding renewal of the $150,000 Beaugay (G3) for fillies and mares at nine furlongs on the inner turf.
The field for the Beaugay includes Miss Temple City, a dual Grade 1 winner against males last year, plus top-level winners Dacita and Time and Motion. Rainha Da Bateria and Hawksmoor, both of whom missed becoming Grade 1 winners in photo finishes last season, are also among the eight entered.
However, Miss Temple City is not certain to run. A very strong chance of rain is forecast for Saturday, and Miss Temple City, last seen winning the Matriarch (G1) by a nose in December, scratched out of last week’s Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) due to wet course conditions.
“Originally she was going to run at Keeneland but she had a little incident in Florida,” trainer Graham Motion said. “She got loose one day and came up with a little inflammation in her legs. She missed two or three weeks of training so that kind of set us back. Then we were going to run [last] Saturday but I was worried about running her on a weird, soft turf course coming off a minor injury plus a layoff to boot.
“I’m afraid I’ll probably find myself in the same situation this weekend. We’ve talked about going to [Royal] Ascot without a race and if that happens, that happens. I’d like to run this weekend, but I don’t know.”
Dacita, conqueror of Tepin in the 2015 Ballston Spa (G2) and winner last term of the New York (G2) over Sea Calisi and the Diana (G1), might be the one to beat in the nine-furlong feature. She was last seen missing by a nose to Chad Brown-trained stablemate Rainha Da Bateria in the September 17 Canadian (G2). The latter was subsequently fifth in the E.P. Taylor (G1), also at Woodbine.
Time and Motion won a three-way photo over Harmonize and Hawksmoor in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in October, but went unplaced over shorter trips in the Matriarch and Jenny Wiley (G1). She sports blinkers for the first time in the Beaugay.
“She won five races last year so you’re not sure you ever want to change anything, but she’s always been that type of filly that’s always looking around and losing focus,” trainer Jimmy Toner said.
Hawksmoor, the German 1000 Guineas (G2) winner, bounced off that QE II Cup performance and was only sixth as the favorite in the following month’s Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill. On Leave, wire-to-wire winner of the Sands Point (G2) over this course and trip last September, has not been out since running fourth in the QE II Cup.
The field for the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War, over the Widener turf, might also be affected by wet conditions. Grade 1-placed Highland Sky is likely to take a pass if the course is too soft, though it might help Irish invader Zhukova, a multiple Group 3 winner who won on heavy ground at The Curragh last year.
Wake Forest is looking to become the fifth horse to win back-to-back renewals of the Man o’ War, but will have to fend off Patterson Cross, who he defeated narrowly in the March 4 Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream. The latter missed in another tight one to Sadler’s Joy in the April 1 Pan American (G2).
Looking to bounce back from a fourth in the Pan Am is Taghleeb, a dual stakes winner at Gulfstream over the winter. Charming Kitten appears to be gradually rounding back into form following a recent second in the Elkhorn (G2), while old warrior Twilight Eclipse is in search of his first stakes win since the 2015 Man o’ War.