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Hibaayeb 7-5 Choice in New York

Hibaayeb top story.
Hibaayeb and Giants Play, the top two finishers in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay over Memorial Day weekend, will square off again in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 New York Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on Belmont Park’s inner turf course.


Victorious in the Group 2 Ribblesdale during last year’s Royal Ascot meet in England, Hibaayeb was later sent to the United States, where she has won half her starts. She took the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Hollywood Park in October, finished eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare turf at Churchill Downs in November, was third in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer on April 2, and was a one-length winner of the Sheepshead Bay on May 28.


“She ran well last time when she won the Grade 2,” said Saeed bin Suroor, who trains Hibaayeb for Godolphin Racing. “She came back sound after her last race and is in good form. Now, we’re going to run her in a Grade 2 again. I think we’ll see a good race from her again.”


While the 1 ¼-mile New York is a furlong shorter than the Sheepshead Bay, Suroor believes Hibaayeb will not be at a disadvantage.


“She won the [Ribblesdale] in England at a mile,” said Suroor. “I don’t think the trip will be a problem for her.”


John Velazquez will ride Hibaayeb, the 7-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 7.


Newsells Park Stud’s Giants Play will attempt to reverse the form of the Sheepshead Bay, having failed to reel in Hibaayeb after closing from fifth into fractions of 50.75 and 1:16.10. The Sheepshead Bay was her third start in the United States, where she has finished third in both a February 18 allowance and the Grade 3 Orchid at Gulfstream Park. Previously, she had won one race from five starts in England.


Christophe Lorieul, assistant to Giant’s Play’s trainer, Christophe Clement, said good to firm ground will help Giants Play’s chances on Saturday.


“She’s always a little bit keen, and softer ground takes a little more out of them,” said Lorieul. “She has a hard time relaxing. If the ground ends up good to soft, I don’t think it would be to our advantage. But if the ground is on the firmer side, I think that might help her a little bit.”


Giants Play, made the 7-2 morning-second choice, will leave from post position 6 with Rajiv Maragh aboard.


Yet another 4-year-old filly who began her career in Europe is Martin Schwartz’s Zagora, who has placed in three graded stakes since coming to the United States.


Trained in France by Jean-Claude Rouget, Zagora won the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux at Longchamp and Group 3 Prix de Psyche at Deauville and was second in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in October. Subsequently transferred to Chad Brown, she has made two starts in 2011, finishing second after leading in the stretch of the Grade 3 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12 and third in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on April 16.


The New York will be Zagora’s first start at 1 ¼ miles since her victory in the Prix de Psyche in July and a third in the Group 3 Prix de Nonette in August.


“I thought both her races [this year] were OK and she has been training well,” said Brown. “I think this is an ideal distance for her. I’ve been looking to stretch her out, and it looks like 1 ¼ miles might be her best distance, based off her form in Europe.”


Ramon Dominguez will ride 5-2 morning-line second choice Zagora, who drew the rail.


Lazy F Ranch’s Prize Catch, who has raced exclusively on the East coast of the United States, steps up in class off a victory in Belmont’s Key to the Bridge overnight stakes on May 26, in which she made a four-wide rally to get up by a nose. The New York will be her first start in a graded stakes.


Cornelio Velasquez has the assignment aboard Prize Catch, 8-1 on the morning line, from post 2.


The New York field also includes La Cloche, winner of an optional claimer on May 11; Trix in the City, who followed an optional claiming score at a Gulfstream with a ninth in that venue’s Grade 3 Suwannee River; and Freedom Rings, fourth against New York-breds in her two most recent starts.


The field for the Grade 2, $150,000 New York:








Zagora (FR)

R A Dominguez


C C Brown



Prize Catch (KY)

C H Velasquez


A J Penna, Jr.



Trix in the City (KY)

A Garcia


R A Violette, Jr.



La Cloche (KY)

J Lezcano


J J Toner



Freedom Rings (NY)

J Castellano


D G Donk



Giants Play (KY)

R Maragh


C Clement



Hibaayeb (GB)

J R Velazquez


S bin Suroor




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