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Breeders' Cup 2017

Alaura Michele Looks Solid in Miss Grillo

In Sunday's Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park, Alaura Michele will attempt to move forward off a 2 ¼-length victory in Saratoga's P. G. Johnson to collect her first graded stakes win.

After starting her career for trainer Gregory Fox at Churchill Downs and running sixth in a 4 ½-furlong dirt maiden race at Churchill on May 5, Alaura Michele was transferred to the barn of Bill Mott. Sent out to a front-running 4 ¼-length victory going six furlongs on the turf at Belmont in her first start for Mott, she stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and rated nicely to win the August 31 stakes.

"She rated better than I expected and she was good in behind horses," Mott noted. "She showed what I thought was a nice, explosive kick coming home."

Sidelined briefly with a virus following the P. G. Johnson, Alaura Michele worked five furlongs at Saratoga on Wednesday, covering the distance in 1:00.68 in a move Mott called "very nice."

Alaura Michele, who carries the colors of Siena Farm, LLC, will leave from post 3 under Eddie Castro as the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

Slip Along Band, undefeated in two starts, will ship in from Maryland for her first graded stakes try. The daughter of Bowman's Band broke her maiden over the artificial surface at Presque Isle Downs on July 26, then took the one-mile Junior Champion Stakes over the Monmouth Park turf on September 11. Kendrick Carmouche comes in to ride Slip Along Band for owner and trainer Michael Pino. She drew post 8 and is the 7-2 second choice.

Stepping up from the maiden ranks is Sweet Cat, victorious in a turf sprint at the Spa on September 1 for owner and trainer Todd Pletcher and attempting to take the next step in Sunday's Miss Grillo.

"Timing-wise it just worked out," Pletcher said. "We ran her 5 ½ furlongs at Saratoga not so much because we feel like she's just a sprinter - she trains like one that will stretch out, so we were just hoping to get her maiden broke and set her up for one of the stakes."

John Velazquez will ride Sweet Cat, 5-1 on the morning line, from post position 3.

Trainer Gary Contessa will saddle two fillies in the Miss Grillo - Bourbonstreetgirl, third following a wide trip in the P. G. Johnson, and Salsa Mambo, who broke her maiden going seven furlongs on the Belmont turf on September 14.

"Bourbonstreetgirl had a rough trip and I think she's better than you saw in the P. G. Johnson," Contessa said. "She's training fantastic up to this race, and really doing well. I'm very pleased with her and I'm really looking forward to the Miss Grillo. I'd like to get enough points with her to make the Breeders' Cup. That would be very important for us."

While Contessa has designs on the Breeders' Cup for Bourbonstreetgirl, he is less sure of what kind of filly Salsa Mambo will turn out to be. Second in a 5 ½-furlong maiden race on the main track at Belmont in June, she was ninth when trying turf for the first time on September 4 at Saratoga, then came back to win a seven-furlong turf maiden claiming event at Belmont 10 days later.

"Salsa Mambo, she's not a bad filly," Contessa said. "She's always trained like she has some quality. She had a very good ride and a very good set up last time, and it was maiden $65,000, so who's to say she can't win the Miss Grillo? We don't know how good she is."

Julien Leparoux has the call aboard Bourbonstreetgirl, 10-1, from post 2, while M.C. Brock will ride Salsa Mambo, 30-1, from the rail.

Completing the field from the rail out in the Miss Grillo are Pure Gossip, fourth in Saratoga's Ann Clare Stakes; Take It Inside, who broke her maiden on the grass at Delaware Park on September 17; Royal Bonnie, a New York-bred turf maiden winner at the Spa; Mystic Mama, a maiden who was second to Slip Along Band in the Junior Champion Stakes; and Tanglewood Tale, trying grass for the first time after a runaway victory in an off-the-turf maiden even at Saratoga on August 21.

The field for the Grade 3, $100,000 Miss Grillo:








Royal Bonnie (NY)

J Castellano


G Weaver



Bourbonstreetgirl (KY)

J R Leparoux


G C Contessa



Alaura Michele (KY)

E Castro


W I Mott



Tanglewood Tale (KY)

R A Dominguez


D L Romans



Slip Along Band (KY)

K Carmouche


M V Pino



Pure Gossip (NY)

R Curatolo


P M Serpe



Take It Inside (NY)

E S Prado


M E Gorham



Salsa Mambo (KY)

M C Brock


G C Contessa



Mystic Mama (KY)

J Lezcano


D S Ryan



Sweet Cat (KY)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher




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