Peter Brant's Fifty Five headlines a talented field of New York-bred fillies and mares as she looks to defend her title in Sunday's $125,000 John Hettinger at Belmont Park.
Trained by three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, the 5-year-old Get Stormy mare rallied to win last year's Hettinger, a nine-furlong inner turf tilt, by two lengths over returning rival Munchkin Money.
Fifty Five has demonstrated an affinity for the Belmont green, posting a record of 5-2-1 from nine attempts, led by wins in the 2017-18 renewals of the Ticonderoga and a one-length score over familiar foe Munchkin Money when taking the Mount Vernon in May.
"Her best races do seem to come over this turf course," said assistant trainer Whit Beckman. "She just arrived back here the other day from Saratoga, but she's doing well. She holds her form and is very easy to train. She's a top filly who does most of the work herself."
Bred by Empire Equines, Fifty Five has banked just shy of $850,000 through 20 career starts. The late-running filly has wins on yielding, good and firm turf through her sparkling career.
"Her close is pretty significant," said Beckman. "She has the ability to find a way to win on various kinds of ground and despite how far back she is, she usually gets up there. She's a filly that intuitively knows where the wire is."
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano retains the mount from post 9.
Christophe Clement will saddle a pair of strong contenders in Munchkin Money and Wegetsdamunnys.
Sweet Home Stables, Mark Parkinson, Brian F. Martin, Steven Bouchey, and Tony Weintraub's multiple-stakes placed Munchkin Money finished second last out in the Yaddo to Hettinger rival Belle of the Spa on August 23 at Saratoga.
The 6-year-old Freud mare, bred by Dr. Thomas M. Murray, boasts a record of 7-5-2 from 23 starts. Previously trained by Brian Lynch, Munchkin Money won first out for Clement on June 23 in an optional claiming tilt at Belmont when 1 ¾-lengths the better of Chipolata.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pilot Munchkin Money from post 6.
Scott D. Krase and Peter G. Stokes' four-time winner Wegetsdamunnys has banked $200,110 in 15 career starts. The 4-year-old D'Funnybone grey, bred by Wellspring Stables, missed by a nose to Goodbye Brockley in the 2018 NYSSS Statue of Liberty and will be in search of a first stakes win on Sunday.
Joel Rosario, who guided Wegetsdamunnys to a nine-furlong turf win at Saratoga on July 11, retains the mount from post 7.
Anthony McCarthy's homebred Belle of the Spa prevailed by a neck in her stakes debut on August 23 when besting Munchkin Money in the Yaddo. The lightly-raced 5-year-old Pure Prize chestnut boasts a record of 4-1-1 from 11 starts with three of those scores on the Belmont green.
Dylan Davis, aboard for the Yaddo win, will guide Belle of the Spa from post 8.
Rounding out the field are Kreesie (Jose Ortiz, post 1), War Canoe (Jose Lezcano, post 2), Giant Zinger (Rajiv Maragh, post 3), Wish Upon (Luis Saez, post 4), Dynamite Kitten (John Velazquez, post 5) and Classic Lady (Manny Franco, post 12). Out of Orbit and Held Accountable are entered for the main track only.
The John Hettinger is slated as Race 9 on Sunday's 10-race card, which also features the Grade 2, $250,000 Gallant Bloom in Race 3 and the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole in Race 7. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.