March 28, 2023

Gufo kicks off 2021 campaign in Man o’ War; Harvey’s Lil Goil returns in Beaugay

Gufo wins the Belmont Derby Invitational (NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand)

Man o’ War S. (G1) — Race 10 (5:44 p.m. ET)

Domestic Spending’s literal tie with turf division leader Colonel Liam in a Grade 1 last weekend at Churchill Downs could bode well for Gufo, who tackles his elders for the first time in Saturday’s $700,000 Man o’ War S. (G1) at Belmont Park.

Although victorious in three stakes last season, including the Belmont Derby (G1), Gufo’s sophomore campaign could have been that much sweeter if not for Domestic Spending. That rival edged Gufo by a head in the Saratoga Derby, and again by a neck in the Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar.

A deep-closing sort, Gufo has won over 1 1/4 miles but has yet to try the Man o’ War distance of 1 3/8 miles. It doesn’t figure to pose a problem, but the apparent lack of serious pace on paper might prove a hurdle.

The Man o’ War’s lone foreign invader is Sovereign, upset winner of the 2019 Irish Derby (G1) in gate-to-wire fashion for Coolmore and trainer Aidan O’Brien. In five starts last season, the son of Galileo placed three times, including a second to Enable in a three-horse edition of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot. He’ll be saddled for the first time by Chad Brown on Saturday.

“We received him over the winter at Payson Park and he’s settled into a nice work pattern,” Brown said. “He came over very sound, and in great shape from Aidan. He sure trains like a horse with a lot of quality. I’ve seen him train on firm ground in Florida and he’s fine with it. He can handle some cut in the ground.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel with him, so if he has speed, I wouldn’t take that away from him. He’s pretty forward in his breezes. He grabs the bit and goes on. If he breaks well and (jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr.) wants to put him on the front, I would be happy with that.”

Multiple Grade 3 winner Field Pass has more early foot than most in the field, and should move forward off a season-opening fourth in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1). He’s never traveled this far, though is bred for the distance being a son of Lemon Drop Kid.

French Group 2 winner Ziyad had placed in all three U.S. appearances, including the 2019 Canadian International (G1) and the Sycamore (G3) and Red Smith (G3) last fall after joining the Graham Motion barn.

“He’s a very straightforward horse that’s been training very well this year so far. I feel that he’s ready for a race like this,” said Motion of Ziyad. “On his form he’s competitive against this group.”

Moon Over Miami was no match for Gofu in the Belmont Derby when they last met, but turned in a couple effective runs at Gulfstream in the Mac Diarmida (G2) and Pan American (G2) over the winter. Channel Cat, who’s last victory occurred two summers ago in the Bowling Green (G2), enters off one of his better efforts of late, a runner-up finishing in the Elkhorn (G3) at Keeneland, though the Calumet Farm homebred has placed just once in five previous tries over the Belmont turf.

Beaugay S. (G3) — Race 6 (3:34 p.m. ET)

Harvey’s Lil Goil, who captured the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) last October prior to losing the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) by a neck, commences her 2021 campaign in the $150,000 Beaugay S. (G3) over 1 1/16 miles. Although she’s generally excelled at slightly longer distances, Harvey’s Lil Goil did hold a lead at the mile point of the 1 1/8-mile Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs last summer

Civil Union was beaten less than two lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, which was run over 1 3/16 miles at Keeneland last season. Undefeated in three starts on the Belmont turf, Civil Union entered the Breeders’ Cup off three straight stakes wins, including the 1 1/4-mile Flower Bowl (G1) and 1 3/8-mile Glens Falls (G2).

“The distance, going a mile and a sixteenth, might not be the perfect spot, but we just need to get her going,” trainer Shug McGaughey said.

Chad Brown has two leading contenders in the field in Nay Lady Nay and Lemista. Nay Lady Nay has two graded wins to her credit and and has fared best over nine furlongs or less, while Irish import Lemista won three of four last term, including the Kilboy Estate (G2) and Park Express (G3).