June 24, 2024

Aspen Grove upsets U.S. foes in Belmont Oaks; Charge It much the best in Suburban

Aspen Grove wins the 2023 Belmont Oaks (Coglianese Photography)

Aspen Grove has been a filly rarely respected in the betting, having gone to post at a double-digit price in all but one of her seven starts. However, she’s one to taken more seriously going forward following a 15-1 upset victory in Saturday’s $500,000 Belmont Oaks (G1).

The 1 1/4-mile Belmont Oaks was an immediate step down in class for Aspen Grove, who had last trailed a field of 10 in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) won by superstar Tahiyra. However, she had finished third in the Cornelscourt (G3) at Leopardstown in her season debut, and last season had broken her maiden in the Flame of Tara (G3) at the Curragh as a 66-1 chance.

Under Oisin Murphy, who was in from Europe to ride Aspen Grove for the first time, the daughter of Justify rallied between rivals in the stretch and outkicked longtime leader Prerequisite to win by three parts of a length. She finished up in a time of 2:04.09 over the firm inner turf and paid $33.40.

“She ran huge today,” trainer Fozzy Stack said. “Last out, she was in season unfortunately, but you have one Guineas to run in. It didn’t work out, but she did well today and shipped over well.”

Aspen Grove races for breeder Craig Bernick’s Glen Hill Farm and Mrs. John Magnier. 

“Fozzy always had a lot of confidence in this horse,” Bernick said. “He wasn’t surprised when she won her group race last year, but her form has just been so in and out. Her last race she finished last and didn’t even try. Last year, the whole time he trained her he thought she would be a 10-furlong horse this year. It’s worked out beautifully, it’s really exciting.”

Prerequisite held second by a neck over Papilio, who stumbled badly at the start. Aspray was fourth and was followed by Freydis the Red, Speirling Beag, 2-1 favorite Mission of Joy, Strikingly Spun, and Be Your Best.

Aspen Grove, who has now won two of seven starts and $318,652, is likely to stay in the U.S. this summer.

“I think she should stay here. The money is great here. She’s already a Grade 1 winner,” Bernick said. “I think she would have a hard time winning a Group 1 in Europe. There’s a whole program for her here. We could go to the Del Mar Oaks (G1), we could go to the Saratoga Oaks (G3) — it didn’t seem like the distance bothered her. There’s just a great program of races here, so I think she will stay here.”

Aspen Grove was foaled in Ireland by the Grade 3-placed Data Dependent, a More Than Ready half-sister to Group 1 winner Skitter Scatter.

Charge It outclassed four rivals in taking the $339,500 Suburban (G2) under John Velazquez earlier in the card. Seizing the lead from Red Run after a quarter-mile, Charge It gradually increased his advantage at each call and won by 4 3/4 lengths.

“He was in cruise control throughout,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains the four-year-old homebred for Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm. “(Velazquez) left him off the rail a little bit to keep him relaxed, but he was traveling so well and it was coming pretty easily to him, you don’t want to take that away.”

Winning in stakes company for the first time since a 23-length romp in the Dwyer (G3) a year ago, Charge It paid $3.30 after covering 1 1/4 miles over a fast track in 2:01.31.

Clapton was a clear second, four lengths ahead of Unbridled Bomber. Red Run weakened to fourth, while second choice Tonal Impact trailed.

Second in the Florida Derby (G1) last season, Charge It placed in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) in March but was unplaced in both the Oaklawn H. (G2) and Metropolitan H. (G1) heading into the Suburban, a race Pletcher also won last season with Dynamic One.

“We’re happy with his performance today. We’ll talk to everyone and consider the Whitney (G1),” Pletcher said.

Bred in Kentucky, Charge It is a son of Tapit and I’ll Take Charge, an Indian Charlie half-sister to 2013 three-year-old champion Will Take Charge and Grade 1 scorers Take Charge Indy and As Time Goes By. Charge It’s second dam, Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady, is also the second dam of 2014 champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi and multiple Grade 1 winner Omaha Beach.