March 4, 2024

Significant Form tops Brown trio in Wonder Again on Belmont Stakes Racing Festival opener

Significant Form is the one to beat after a smashing return in the Memories of Silver (NYRA/Coglianese/Chelsea Durand)

Trainer Chad Brown has won two of four editions of the $200,000 Wonder Again (G3), a stat that may be enhanced after Thursday’s renewal on opening day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. He’s entered a trio of three-year-old fillies in the 1 1/8-mile inner turf test, with Significant Form looming as the likely favorite.

Brown’s past winners, Lady Eli (2015) and New Money Honey (2017), both used this as a springboard to victory in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1). As the designed prep, the Wonder Again figures to sift through the contenders for the $1 million prize on July 7.

Significant Form, a $575,000 OBS April purchase, has crossed the wire first in three of four starts. Disqualified for impeding a rival in her sharp debut at Saratoga, the Creative Cause filly went straight to the Miss Grillo (G3) and broke her maiden there as the even-money favorite. Significant Form was not able to emulate Lady Eli and New Money Honey in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), finishing fourth to stablemate Rushing Fall, but returned with a bang at Aqueduct April 22. While the gray was entitled to win her comeback in the Memories of Silver, she was electric in a 6 1/4-length wire job. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. stays aboard the 121-pound co-highweight, who’s drawn in post 5.

Stablemate Altea has been doing her best work a little too late in her 1 1/16-mile stakes this season. Beaten all of a neck when third to Andina Del Sur in the March 10 Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa, Altea plugged on for fifth in the Edgewood (G3) on Kentucky Oaks Day. The added ground should help the rail-drawn filly, as may the switch to Javier Castellano. Altea’s eligible to follow through on her French juvenile form, when she placed to high-profile rivals in a pair of stakes — Mission Impassible, who just won Sunday’s Prix de Sandringham (G2), and With You, the near-misser in the May 27 Prix Saint-Alary (G1).

The least accomplished of the Brown deputation, Mighty Scarlett, steps up in class off a 4 1/4-length maiden romp at Keeneland. But as a daughter of Scat Daddy, she could be capable of much more. Jose Ortiz, formerly on Altea, sticks with Mighty Scarlett.

Florida Oaks winner Andina Del Sur tried the main track last out, winding up a distant fourth in the Ashland (G1), and promises to be happier back on turf. The Tom Albertrani pupil has won or placed in all of her starts on the surface, including thirds in the Ginger Brew and Sweetest Chant (G3), and the co-highweight now picks up Hall of Famer John Velazquez.

Also carrying 121 pounds is Daddy Is a Legend from the George Weaver barn. An eye-catching winner of last November’s Jimmy Durante (G3) at Del Mar, the Scat Daddy filly was a heroic fourth in the April 8 Appalachian (G2) after blowing the start. She served it up to Brown’s Rushing Fall last time in the Edgewood, and their match race resulted in both being swamped late by Toinette. Daddy Is a Legend takes the blinkers off in light of her third at Churchill Downs, and she gets Manny Franco in the saddle.

Adding further French flair are Armoricaine, a niece of Americain who ships in for Christophe Ferland, and La Signare, an import for Brian Lynch. Armoricaine beat the boys in last October’s Grand Criterium de Bordeaux, and third-placer Patascoy just finished a half-length second in Sunday’s French Derby (G1). The Wertheimer et Frere homebred ran too bad to be true in her classic trial, the April 15 Prix de la Grotte (G3), and she adds Lasix here while keeping Maxime Guyon. La Signare, a Toulouse maiden winner, was a closing second in her U.S. premiere to Toinette – the Edgewood upsetter.

Camila Princess has won her last pair at Gulfstream, including the Honey Ryder. Fellow Animal Kingdom filly Animosity, two-for-two for Paddy Gallagher, takes a class hike after an allowance score on the Golden Gate Tapeta. Rounding out the 10-horse field is Ohio-bred Spinning Top, who landed a restricted stakes on the Belterra turf.

Older turf fillies and mares take the stage in the preceding race, the $200,000 Intercontinental (G3), over seven furlongs on the Widener course. Last year’s Prix de Sandringham heroine, La Sardane, scored second time out for Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale at Churchill Downs on “Thurby.” Having traded decisions with Senga at home in France, the Team Valor colorbearer has plenty of back class for this level. Delectation, a multiple Group 3 victress in Germany, made an encouraging debut for Wesley Ward when fourth versus males in the TwinSpires Turf Sprint (G3).

Lady Alexandra exits a 3 1/2-length score over Stormy Victoria in the April 29 License Fee, while Bob Baffert’s Grade 2 dirt winner Faypien is intriguing on the surface switch as a Ghostzapper filly out of a Freud mare. Other contenders include recent course-and-distance allowance scorer I’m Betty G, a consistent graded-placer for Mike Maker, and Weaver’s duo of Thundering Sky and Malibu Stacy.

The Thursday stakes action begins with the 107th running of the Astoria for juvenile fillies, and the $150,000 affair pits Simon Callaghan’s highly regarded Tijori against Ward’s Keeneland debut winners Wonder Stone and Athens Queen and the Mark Casse-trained Eyeinthesky.

Tijori showed good speed to win first up at Santa Anita, getting her freshman sire Will Take Charge off the mark. Royal Ascot was mooted until Callaghan and owner Kaleem Shah decided to point the $525,000 OBS March purchase to New York instead. Flavien Prat renews the partnership.

Wonder Stone, a Don Alberto Stable homebred by Super Saver, promises to flash speed from the rail with new pilot Velazquez, while Athens Queen, a Majestic Warrior filly who just lasted in her maiden, reunites with Albin Jimenez.

Eyeinthesky won’t mind an early pace war in the 5 1/2-furlong dash, for the Gary Barber colorbearer rolled off a hot tempo to win impressively at Churchill Downs. The daughter of Sky Mesa is wheeling back fairly quickly from that May 25 maiden.

Not to be overlooked is the lone maiden in the field, Lady Apple, a troubled second in her Keeneland unveiling. With bags of upside as a May 1 foal by Curlin, it’s no wonder that Phoenix Thoroughbred has bought into the KatieRich homebred who’s transferred to Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and gets Lasix. The rest are debut winners facing stiffer tests – Six Pack Gal, who won in Cal-restricted company at Santa Anita; Gallanor, who closed in a slowly-run Laurel maiden; and Gorgeouswitha G from Prairie Meadows.