Trainer Christophe Clement will have a full hand in next
weekend’s turf stakes at Belmont, with Cheetah and Giants Play in
the Sheepshead Bay, Mystical Star and Naples Bay expected for the
Sands Point, and the New York-bred Akilina set to go in the one-mile
Cheetah, bred in Great Britain, began her career
across the pond for trainer Luca Cumani, breaking her maiden at 1 ¼ miles last
August and eventually winning a 1 ½-mile stakes race over the Kempton Polytrack
in November before joining Clement’s barn. Her first race in the U.S. was a 1
5/8-mile allowance at Keeneland, originally scheduled for the turf, but rained
off onto the Polytrack.
“She won very well,” Clement’s assistant, Christophe
Lorieul, said of Cheetah’s 3 ¾-length victory. “The filly that was second
[Augustin Stable’s Dyna Waltz] was also in England and had very good form. We
thought [Dyna Waltz] was the filly to beat and she ran really well. We’ll get
Cheetah back on the turf here and I don’t think [the change in surface] is much
of a problem. She’s a filly that stays and that’s mainly the key, I think.
She’ll go the distance no problem whatsoever.”
Giants Play, who also started off in England, has made two starts in this country,
earning a pair of third-place finishes at Gulfstream Park
this winter, most recently in the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes on March 20.
“I think she should have maybe been second that day,”
Lorieul said. “She’s doing well and is the same [type of filly] as Cheetah,
she’ll love the distance as well.”
Lorieul reported that Mystical Star, runner-up in the Grade
3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream and subsequent winner of an
off-the-turf allowance at Keeneland on April 27, was training well toward her
engagement in the Sands Point.
Akilina - third in the Irish Linnet, a state-bred overnight
stakes on opening day at Belmont, in what was
her first start in two months - was also said to be doing well as she points
for the Mount Vernon.
“She came back very well from that race,” Lorieul said.
“She’s a bit fitter than she was the other day and I think that’s a good