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Clement Busy in New York Turf Stakes

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 Mount Vernon.


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 thing.”




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