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Sheepshead Bay Anybody's Race

On May 7, trainer Graham Motion and owner Team Valor International captured the Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont Park with Daveron, and, less than three hours later, won the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs with Animal Kingdom. Saturday, the tandem will attempt to continue their whirlwind May when they send out La Luna de Miel in Belmont Park’s Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay for fillies and mares on the turf.

 

La Luna de Miel began her career in Germany, breaking her maiden on debut in April and finishing eighth over soft ground in a listed stakes at Cologne in June. Subsequently transferred to Motion’s barn in the United States, the expatriate opened her North American account with one-length scores at Gulfstream Park in a 1 7/16-mile allowance on February 18 and in the Grade 3, 1 ½-mile Orchid on March 20.

 

Despite the 8 ½-month layoff, Motion was confident the 4-year-old daughter of Monsun could handle the lengthy distances.

 

“The decision [to enter her in longer races] was based on pedigree, more than anything,” said Motion. “I know the family, and they all have stamina. I thought she ran a huge race off the layoff as I was not sure if she was fit enough to win.”

 

La Luna de Miel has made one other start in the United States, finishing fourth over yielding turf in the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland on April 28. Motion said the performance has him hoping for firm ground in the Sheepshead Bay, which will be contested at 1 3/8 miles on the Widener turf course.

 

Eddie Castro will ride La Luna de Miel, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, from post position 5.

 

Another European import who will compete in Saturday’s Sheepshead Bay is Hibaayeb, who last year won the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot and annexed the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Hollywood Park. After finishing eighth in November’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in her 3-year-old finale, the Godolphin Racing standardbearer commenced her 2011 campaign with a third in 1 1/16-mile optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on April 2.

 

“Eight-and-a-half furlongs we knew was going to be too short,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “She stalked the pace and got a little tired towards the end, which we knew she would coming off the layoff. She had a good winter down at Palm Meadows. The idea was to get a race in her, and the Sheepshead Bay was a logical place to run her back.”

 

Hibaayeb, the 2-1 morning line favorite, will have the services of John Velazquez from post 2.

 

Cheetah, victorious in her lone start in North America, will make her graded stakes debut in the Sheepshead Bay. The gray daughter of Tiger Hill began her career in Great Britain, winning two of seven starts, including a 1 ½-mile listed stakes on Kempton’s all-weather surface in her final start in her native country.

 

Now trained by Christophe Clement for Robert Scarborough, Cheetah swung off cover turning for home and drew off to a 3 ¾-length victory over Dyna Waltz – who dead-heated for second in Saturday’s Grade 3 Gallorette at Pimlico – in a 1 5/8-mile allowance contested over Keeneland’s artificial main track on April 23.

 

“She won very well,” Clement’s assistant, Christophe Lorieul, said of the 4-year-old’s triumph at Keeneland. “The filly that was second [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.”

 

The Sheepshead Bay will be Cheetah’s first start on grass since her fourth-place finish in a November listed stakes at Doncaster in her penultimate start in Great Britain.

 

“We’ll get Cheetah back on the turf here and I don’t think [the change in surface] is much of a problem,” said Lorieul. “She’s a filly that stays and that’s mainly the key, I think. She’ll go the distance no problem whatsoever.”

 

Cheetah will leave from post 3 under Garrett Gomez at 6-1 on the morning line.

 

Clement, who seeks his fifth Sheepshead Bay victory, will send out another 4-year-old filly who began her career in Great Britain in Newsells Park Stud’s Giants Play, third behind La Luna de Miel in the February 18 allowance and in the Orchid.

 

“I think she should have maybe been second [in the Orchid],” Lorieul said of Giants Play, who in the Orchid finished 1 ½ lengths behind the winner and missed second by a neck. “She’s doing well and is the same [type of filly] as Cheetah, she’ll love the distance as well.”

 

Rajiv Maragh will ride Giants Play, the 4-1 morning-line third choice, from the rail.

 

Clement also entered Castleton Lyons’ Tarrip, third in the Grade 3 Prevoyante at Calder on January 2 and fourth in the Orchid, in Saturday’s race. In her most recent start in New York, Tarrip closed her 2010 campaign with a third in the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct on November 13.

 

Ramon Dominguez has the assignment aboard Tarrip, tabbed at 6-1 on the morning line, from post 4.

 

Completing the field are Belle Watling, the Chilean Horse of the Year who seeks her first North American triumph, and Choice Play, second in a Gulfstream optional claimer on April 24. The two mares, both trained by Patrick Biancone for Flying Zee Stable, form a coupled entry.

 

The field for the Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay:

Program No.

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

2

1

Giants Play (KY)

R Maragh

116

C Clement

4-1

3

2

Hibaayeb (GB)

J R Velazquez

123

S bin Suroor

2-1

4

3

Cheetah (GB)

G K Gomez

116

C Clement

6-1

5

4

Tarrip (KY)

R A Dominguez

116

C Clement

6-1

6

5

La Luna de Miel (GER)

E Castro

120

H G Motion

5-2

1

6

Belle Watling (CHI)

R Curatolo

120

P L Biancone

8-1

1a

7

Choice Play (KY)

J Samyn

116

P L Biancone

8-1

 


 

 

 

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