Grade 1 heroine MIDNIGHT BISOU returns to action on Saturday at Belmont Park in the $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes (G2) against six rivals, including a few familiar faces.
The Midnight Lute sophomore makes her first start in the 1 1/16-mile affair for new trainer Steve Asmussen after beginning her career with Bill Spawr. For that horseman the dark bay lass just missed by a nose when second in both her maiden debut and the Desi Arnaz Stakes last year. Midnight Bisou broke her maiden by 4 1/2 lengths taking the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) in her seasonal bow on January 7, and followed that with easy scores in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G1).
The Kentucky-bred miss showed up on May 4 at Churchill Downs as the 2-1 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), but found herself four wide on the final turn and seven wide in the lane after running near the back of the pack early on. She rallied to be third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths by winner Monomoy Girl, and was subsequently transferred to Asmussen.
Despite the trainer change, Midnight Bisou retains the services of jockey Mike Smith, who has piloted her since the Santa Ynez.
Among those lining up against the filly is undefeated ROAD TO VICTORY, who is best known as the only filly to have beaten Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl. The Mark Casse-trained bay broke her maiden on the turf at Woodbine in her initial outing last October before collaring Monomoy Girl in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) to post a neck victory on November 25 at Churchill Downs.
According to Casse, Road to Victory suffered an ankle injury after the Golden Rod and was given plenty of time to recover. The Quality Road filly returned June 9 to capture the Alywow Stakes back over Woodbine’s turf while making her sophomore bow.
“We just gave her some time off and she grew up,” Casse said. “It took a little longer to get her back than I thought it would. When I knew we couldn’t make the Kentucky Oaks, we came up with Plan B for the Alywow and the Mother Goose.
“She has no conditions since she was a stakes winner. I didn’t want to run her against older fillies, so I looked at all the races all over North America and asked what was the best spot to bring her here knowing I wouldn’t have to train her so hard that she needed to be 100 percent,” Casse added. “I wanted her to get a win, and she broke her maiden at Woodbine, and I just thought it was a good spot that would lead up to the Mother Goose.”
Road to Victory readied for the Mother Goose with a half-mile bullet breeze in :48.02 over Belmont Park’s fast main track on June 22.
“We’ve been extremely happy with how she’s trained since arriving at Belmont,” said Casse, who has tabbed jockey Manny Franko to ride the sophomore miss for the first time in this spot.
Casse also entered GIO GAME in the Mother Goose off a third-place run at 24-1 behind Monomoy Girl in the Acorn Stakes (G1) most recently on June 9. However, the trainer also indicated the Gio Ponti filly is likely to skip Saturday’s contest in favor of the $300,000 Delaware Oaks (G3) on July 7.
“More than likely, only one is going to run,” Casse said. “My idea right now is that if everything remains the same, it will be Road to Victory in the Mother Goose. It never hurts to have two really good fillies. You never know what could happen, if one of them has a temperature or doesn’t eat up, and I can decide if one of them needs an extra week.”
Like Midnight Bisou, COACH ROCKS and MY MISS LILLY each ran in the Kentucky Oaks. The former finished seventh and the latter 11th. Since then, Coach Rocks has returned to be second in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at Pimlico while My Miss Lilly makes her first start since the Run for the Lilies in this spot.
Jockey Robby Albarado rides Coach Rocks for trainer Dale Romans while Flavien Prat will be in My Miss Lilly’s saddle for conditioner Mark Hennig.
“We’re cutting back to one turn (in the Mother Goose) and she’ll need to be a little fresher facing this field,” Hennig said of My Miss Lilly. “She’s never gotten to run here but she’s trained well here.”
Completing the Mother Goose field are the Jeremiah Englehart-trained INDY UNION, third in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes most recently, and unbeaten stakes debuter MO SMART, who has captured her initial two starts by a combined 20 1/2 lengths for conditioner Todd Pletcher. Junior Alvarado has the call on Indy Union while David Cohen takes the reins on Mo Smart for the first time.
Earlier on Belmont’s Saturday card, seven distaffers will line up in the $100,000 Perfect Sting Stakes going a mile on the Widener turf. Headlining the field are the French-bred duo of THAIS and LA SARDANE.
Thais is seeking her first stakes win stateside after placing in both the Pebbles Stakes and Winter Memories Stakes last fall. The dark bay four-year-old returned to action May 18 with a 1 1/4-length score over course and distance for trainer Chad Brown, and gets Mike Smith aboard for the first time here.
La Sardane brings a two-race win streak into the Perfect Sting, including a neck victory in the seven-furlong Intercontinental Stakes (G3) last out on June 7. The Neil Drysdale-trained four-year-old is a Group 2 winner her native France and keeps Flavien Prat aboard Saturday.
“She’s been training well since her performance in the Intercontinental,” Drysdale said. “She’s shown us that this distance is certainly in her wheelhouse and she’s been conditioning forwardly since her last race.”