Zhukova looks to make triumphant return to Belmont in Flower Bowl

October 05, 2017 11:07am
Zhukova wins 2017 Man o' War
Photo: Chelsea Durand

Zhukova will look to make a triumphant return to Belmont Park in headlining an accomplished group of six fillies and mares 3-years-old and up in Sunday's Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park.

The 40th edition of the Flower Bowl, a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf on November 4 at Del Mar, is one of two Breeders' Cup qualifiers on the day's schedule, joining the Grade, $400,000 Frizette for 2-year-old fillies.

The Irish-bred Zhukova made an immediate impression in her North American debut, winning the Grade 1 Man o' War by six lengths against males on May 13 at 1 3/8 miles on Belmont's Widener turf course. Her victory earned the 5-year-old a 107 Beyer Speed Figure, and the Dermot Weld trainee will now return to New York to contest the Flower Bowl at 1 ¼ miles.

"It's nice to have won here before. It gives us confidence, that's why we're back there with her. The Flower Bowl is a prestigious race and we look forward to competing," Weld said.

Zhukova returned to her native country for her last two races, finishing fourth in the Group 1 Pretty Polly on July 2 before running eighth in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes on September 9. She arrived in New York on September 26 with stablemate The Grey Gatsby, who ran ninth in last week's Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

"We've been pleased with her in every race. We were satisfied with her, she ran a good race last time out in the Irish Champion," Weld said. "Coming early gave us a chance to get acclimated to the climate. Traveling takes a bit out of her. She travels all right, but she'll appreciate the extra time."

Weld, who won the Flower Bowl with his only previous entrant with Dimitrova in 2003, will see regular jockey Patrick Smullen arrive from overseas to have the call from post 4.

Trainer Chad Brown, who has won the Flower Bowl three straight years and has four victories in the race overall, will saddle a pair of formidable challengers, including Grand Jete, who has three wins and a second-place finish in her first four North American starts since arriving from France.

The English-bred Grand Jete, who won the Grade 3 Eatontown on June 3 at Monmouth Park, won against allowance company in her Belmont debut on July 14 before making the step up to Grade 1 competition, finishing second in a dead heat with Dona Bruja behind stablemate Dacita in the Beverly D. on August 12 at Arlington.

Grand Jete, owned by Juddmonte Farms, will be coming off a nearly two-month layoff between races, a similar interval that led to her 1 ¼-length win in the Eatontown.

"She's doing great," said Brown, who won last year's Flower Bowl with Lady Eli. "I don't think she needs that much time, but she can be effective when it's spaced out. She had a nightmare of a trip down on the inside but ran well. She's a tough filly."

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will ride Grand Jete for the first time from the rail.

Dacita has made 10 starts - all against graded stakes company - since arriving from her native Chile in 2015 and has four wins and three runner-up finishes. The 6-year-old Scat Daddy mare has registered triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures four times, including in victories in the 2015 Grade 2 Ballston Spa, the 2016 Grade 1 Diana and a 102 last out in the Beverly D. in which she stalked the pacesetters before going four-wide at the top of the stretch.

Irad Ortiz, Jr., who has three wins and two second-place efforts in five starts aboard Dacita, will have the return call from post 3.

After back-to-back fourth-place finishes in graded stakes, trainer Brendan Walsh said Beauly will see if she can meet the challenge of her first career Grade 1 appearance. The 4-year-old English-bred, who came to the country in May, won her first race in the U.S. in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff on July 15 at Indiana Grand Race Course before finishing off the board in the Grade 3 Violet and the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf on September 9.

"We just wanted to give her a shot in a Grade 1. Since she ran her last race, she came out of it really good and this time of year you are a little limited in options as far as graded stakes are concerned," Walsh said. "It is probably going to be light enough on numbers up there, and I know the quality is still going to be very high, but numbers-wise it may be light, so maybe we can shake it up a little bit."

Beauly made her first seven career starts in England, running in the 2016 Group 2 Ribblesdale at Ascot, before cutting back in distances since coming from overseas. With jockey Manny Franco from post 5, Beauly will look to capitalize on the stretch out in distance.

"She was running longer in England, so I think we can get her to switch off in behind and then come running at the end," Walsh said. "Hopefully, it will work out good."

War Flag also boasts an international pedigree, winning the Prix Double Rose, Prix des Layons and the Group 3 Prix Chole last year in France. Since shipping across the Atlantic, War Flag has beaten optional claiming company and ran second in the Grade 3 Matchmaker and third in the Grade 3 Glens Falls last out on September 2 at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

A 4-year-old daughter of War Front, War Flag ran second in her only previous start at the Flower Bowl distance, finishing a nose behind Gargotiere in the Prix de la Grange Aux Belles last year in Chantilly. Jose Ortiz will be in the irons from post 2.

Guilty Twelve, who also started her career in England, will be making her first Belmont appearance since winning an allowance race on May 19 at Belmont. That victory preceded a win by a nose in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial on July 8 at Delaware Park. The 5-year-old Giant's Causeway mare, trained by Graham Motion, will be looking to rebound off a seventh-place performance in the Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Waya on August 5 at the Spa. Christopher DeCarlo will exit post 6.

Source: NYRA Communications


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