New York-bred Hessonite, who became a graded stakes
winner last time out, takes on an internationally flavored field of
seven other turf fillies and mares for Saturday’s 55th running of the Grade 2, $200,000
Sheepshead Bay at
The 1 3/8-mile
Sheepshead Bay is the first of five graded stakes over the holiday weekend at
Park, with Monday’s Memorial Day card to
feature the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, the Grade 1,
$400,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap, the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn and the
Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point.
Trained by David Donk for William Punk, Jr. and Philip DiLeo,
Hessonite angled out from behind a wall of horses in the stretch and
rallied for a three-quarter-length
victory in the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 4 in her 2013 debut. The Beaugay
was the Freud mare’s fifth stakes start in open company, with her
previous best finishes a second in the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial
in 2012 at Parx Racing and a third in the Grade
3 Boiling Springs in 2011 at Monmouth
Saturday, she’ll be facing a talented group, six of whom began
their careers in Europe, including the Graham Motion-trained duo of
Strathnaver (4-1) and Julie’s Love
(6-1) and multiple graded stakes winner Starformer (7-2) from Hall of
Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“It’s a competitive field, but it will give us a little line on
what path we want to take with her this summer,” said Donk of Hessonite,
the champion New York-bred older
mare of 2012. “She’s been training well – she had a nice breeze the
other day [six furlongs in 1:14.50] – and we’ll see what happens.”
Junior Alvarado will ride Hessonite, the 5-2 favorite on the morning line, when she leaves from post position 5.
Strathnaver, a 4-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream, was sent to
Motion’s barn this year after compiling a record of 2-1-0 from nine
Great Britain. Her American debut came in March at
Park, where she scored a
three-quarter-length victory in an optional claimer, and a month later
she became a graded stakes winner with an 18-1 upset of the Grade 3
Bewitch at Keeneland Race Course.
Motion, who won last year’s
Sheepshead Bay with Aruna, also has entered 5-year-old Julie’s Love, sharp winner of the Owsley overnight stakes on May 1 at
Belmont. Bred in
Great Britain, where she began her career, the Ad Valorem mare came to the
last year and fashioned a 3-2-1 record from seven starts, including a
half-length victory in the De La Rose at Saratoga Race Course.
Jockey Joel Rosario returns aboard Strathnaver, who drew post
position 6, with Javier Castellano named to ride Julie’s Love, who drew
post position 2.
Finishing fourth in her stateside bow was Anjaz, who rallied from ninth in the Grade 3 Orchid on March 30 at
Park. The Godolphin Racing color-bearer, 1-0-1 in five starts in
Great Britain, has been training forwardly for Tom Albertrani, most recently breezing five furlongs in 1:03.78.
“I thought she ran well in that race, considering she got off to
a poor start,” said Albertrani. “It took her out of her game, as she
likes to be closer. She managed
to make up a lot of ground despite that, and finish strong. I’m hoping
with that one race we can move forward off that.”
Trainer Christophe Clement will try for his fifth career victory in the
Bay with Mystical Star, who rebounded from a
disqualification in last year’s edition to take the Grade 2 New York.
The Ghostzapper mare opened her 5-year-old campaign with a third in the
Grade 3 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs, and
then was fourth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare at
“She got beat the other day at Keeneland; I think she’s a better
filly for the race,” said Clement. “Unfortunately, the race will be
very competitive, but that’s the
way it is. She’s doing well.”
Jose Lezcano will ride Mystical Star, 5-1 on the morning line, from post position 7.
Rounding out the field are the Irish-bred Tannery, fourth to
Julie’s Love in the Owsley, and French import Minakshi, second by a
half-length in the Owsley in her first
North American start.