May 19, 2022

Concrete Rose imposing favorite in inaugural Saratoga Oaks

Concrete Rose and jockey Julien Leparoux capture the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park on July 6, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Concrete Rose rolls into the inaugural running of the $750,000 Saratoga Oaks on Friday as the undisputed domestic leader among three-year-old turf fillies. Winner of the Belmont Oaks (G1), Edgewood (G3), and Florida Oaks (G3) this season, the Rusty Arnold trainee faces only five rivals in the second leg of NYRA’s new Turf Tiara series.

Loosely patterned after the Triple Crown with regards to distance, the Saratoga Oaks will be run over 1 3/16 miles. The July 6 Belmont Oaks was contested over 1 1/4 miles, which Concrete Rose dominated by 2 3/4 lengths. The series finale is the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks over 1 3/8 miles at Belmont Park on September 7.

Happen is one of two fillies trainer Aidan O’Brien ships over from Ireland. The War Front filly was a non-threatening sixth in the Coronation (G1) at Royal Ascot on June 21 as a 16-1 chance, but previously won or placed in both Group 3 attempts in Ireland during the spring. Ryan Moore will be in to ride.

Coral Beach is the other Coolmore entry, but she’s failed to finish in the money in five starts this term. Seventh in the Belmont Oaks, she was back in action two weeks later in the Kilboy Estate (G2) at The Curragh, in which she trailed the field of five.

Olendon received some support in the Belmont Oaks off a second in the Prix Saint-Alary (G1), but retreated to eighth. Now conditioned by Chad Brown, she adds blinkers for her second U.S. appearance. The field is completed by Kelsey’s Cross, third in the Wonder Again (G3) and $100,000 Martha Washington at Gulfstream in her last two, and the Graham Motion-trained Her Royal Highness.

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Moon Colony, under jockey Julien Leparoux, wins the Penn Mile (G2) at Penn National on June 1, 2019 (c) Adrianna Lynch

Penn Mile (G2) winner Moon Colony and the stakes-winning English Bee both seek to rebound off dull Belmont Derby (G1) performances in the $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) over one mile.

Moon Colony was unexpectedly on the lead in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Derby but faded through the lane in finishing ninth, one place ahead of English Bee, who was exiting a victory in the $100,000 James W. Murphy at Pimlico.

“I think the cut back to a mile will be good for him. Unfortunately, in his last start, he got hooked up with the Aidan O’Brien horse that was next to him yelling and screaming,” trainer Mark Casse said of Moon Colony. “That hurt his chances last time but he’s already well proven at a mile, so I think that the Hall of Fame suits him quite nicely.”

“I’m pretty happy with him. I think perhaps he just didn’t really want to go that far in the Belmont Derby,” trainer Graham Motion said of English Bee. “I think shortening him back up to a mile will help him.”

Casa Creed finished second to Moon Colony in the Penn Mile two back and enters off a close third in the $100,000 Manila at Belmont. Global Access has won or placed in five straight stakes appearances, while Award Winner just missed in the Kent (G3) at Delaware Park last out.

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The $100,000 Alydar for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on the main track has attracted a field of nine including Tom’s d’Etat, who placed in both the Alysheba (G2) and Stephen Foster (G2) during the Churchill Downs spring meet.

“We considered running in the Whitney (G1) (on Saturday), but I wanted to give him some class relief and wanted to give us a good chance at winning a race before deciding where we’ll point him next,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said of Tom’s d’Etat. “He’s doing great and I think he really relishes it up here.”

Backyard Heaven, the 2018 Alysheba winner, is making his second start back from an 11-month layoff. Long-distance specialist You’re to Blame has had useful graded form in his last couple of starts in the Pimlico Special (G3) and Brooklyn (G2).