On a busy Sunday of racing at Aqueduct, the sensational three-year-old filly Nest conquered older rivals in the $250,000 Beldame S. (G2) to stake her claim as the possible favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Fresh off victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Alabama S. (G1) at Saratoga, Nest left no doubt about her superiority in the Beldame. Favored at 1-20 while facing four rivals, the stoutly bred daughter of Curlin tracked splits of :24.52, :49.01, and 1:13.16 before powering clear under Irad Ortiz Jr. to dominate by 9 3/4 lengths.
“I was a passenger,” Ortiz told the New York Racing Association. “She’s doing so good right now. I broke good. Before, she used to break a step slow. Now, the last couple of times she’s been breaking good out of there and that’s a big advantage because I don’t have to use that much. She put herself in the race and I just waited for my time to go. Then I let her do her thing. She’s so nice.”
Trained by Todd Pletcher on behalf of Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Michael House, Nest completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.38. First to Act, Hybrid Eclipse, Travel Column, and The Grass Is Blue chased her home.
“For Eclipse, myself, and Todd, she’s been an incredible filly,” said Mike Repole of Repole Stable. “She had two tough races in Saratoga, even though she won impressively. We didn’t want to give her 11 weeks off (between the Alabama and the Breeders’ Cup), so we needed to find the right spot and get her a good start where she would have to assert herself but save something for four weeks from now, and I think we found a perfect spot.”
Later in the afternoon, Nagirroc wheeled back on short rest to claim victory in the $150,000 Futurity S. (G3), a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1). A gate-to-wire maiden winner sprinting six furlongs over the Aqueduct outer turf on Sept. 24, Nagirroc stuck to the same course and distance for the Futurity and rallied from just behind the leaders to score by a neck in 1:09.36.
“I think he’s a smart horse and he doesn’t have to be on the lead,” said winning jockey Manny Franco, who rode Nagirroc for trainer Graham Motion and owners Madaket Stables, Little Red Feather Racing, and William Strauss. “The pace scenario was more speed today. I don’t want my horse coming from a short (rest) to run today and get him in a speed duel. I just wanted to give him a chance behind the horses, and it set up perfect for me.”
Gaslight Dancer and Vacation Dance dueled from start to finish through splits of :22.09 and :44.78, ultimately settling for second and third place while separated by a head. Inflation Nation, Dunedin, Determined Jester, and Power Attack completed the order of finish.
The $150,000 Knickerbocker S. (G3) completed the graded stakes action at Aqueduct. The 1 1/8-mile turf test unfolded favorably for speed horses as 15-1 longshot King Cause led all the way under Kendrick Carmouche, setting slow fractions of :25.33, :50.90, and 1:14.87 before accelerating sharply to beat the pace-tracking trio of Pixelate, Safe Conduct, and Field Pass by two lengths in 1:50.06.
Public Sector, Lonesome Fugitive, Eons, Pao Alto, Dynadrive, and L’Imperator trailed behind King Cause, a seven-year-old gelding owned by Nice Guys Stables and trained by Mike Maker.
“Coming into today’s race, not a lot of speed. I figured let me break sharp and see where I’m at,” said Carmouche. “Those guys took a hold and I was able to walk as slow as I can and make myself a winner. He exploded home. After those fractions, you have to expect him to come home fast.
“I wasn’t worried about nobody coming around the quarter-pole. I didn’t hear nothing in my ears. I was still waiting and waiting and once he switched, I let him run away from there. He extended his stride. I’m just glad to be part of it.”
The 2022 Breeders’ Cup is slated for Nov. 4-5 at Keeneland.