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Belmont Park - Reigning 2-year-old champion filly Caledonia Road continues to progress on her journey back to stakes company in the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn Stakes for sophomore fillies at a mile, where she's expected to face Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl and two-time Grade 1 winner Moonshine Memories, among others.
The 3-year-old Quality Road filly turned in a sharp bullet work on Saturday and has emerged in good order, said trainer Ralph Nicks on Wednesday. In that move, her last serious training before the June 6 race, Caledonia Road broke well behind her workmate, a 3-year-old New York-bred filly, and easily usurped her company in the stretch. She crossed the wire by open lengths over her stablemate to complete five furlongs in 59.84 seconds, her second bullet work in a row and the fastest of 12 at the distance.
Owned by Zoom and Fish Stable, Charlie Spiring, and Newtown Anner Stud, Caledonia Road is exiting a 3 ½-length win in a one-mile optional claiming race on April 29 at Belmont Park, where she earned a career-high 84 Beyer Speed Figure as the 1-5 favorite. It was her first race since clinching the Eclipse Award with a 3 ¼-length victory at 17-1 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at Del Mar.
"She needed a good work," Nicks said of Saturday's breeze. "Obviously, it'll be her second race off the layoff and in her first race back, she wasn't what I would call 100 percent for her best effort that day. It was a building block to the Acorn and of course to the rest of the year. I would expect her to move forward off of the last race and if we're good enough, we can catch them around a one-turn mile.
"I expect a good effort from her," he added. "She's training well, looks good, appetite's good. We'll see how we stack up against the Oaks champion and a couple other ones in there. It's not going to be an easy race."
Assistant trainer Heather Smullen is overseeing the Belmont string for Nicks, based in Florida for much of the year. Smullen is also the regular exercise rider for Caledonia Road, who Nicks said will "open gallop" into the race.
He added that Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will have the call in the Acorn. Smith, who will ride the undefeated Justify in his bid for the Triple Crown, was also aboard for her Breeders' Cup win.
Race 4 on Belmont Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 1:24 PM
|1||Moonshine Memories||6-1||Flavien Prat||Simon Callaghan|
|2||Spectator||8-1||Javier Castellano||Philip D'Amato|
|3||Monomoy Girl||4-5||Florent Geroux||Brad Cox|
|4||Gio Game||15-1||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse|
|5||Caledonia Road||3-1||Mike Smith||Ralph Nicks|
|6||Starcloud||20-1||Albin Jimenez||Oscar Gonzalez|
|7||Talk Veuve to Me||8-1||Jose Ortiz||Rodolphe Brisset|
Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl, in an important training move for the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9, worked five-eighths of a mile in 59 2/5 seconds in company with 5-year-old stablemate Dazzling Gem, galloping out six furlongs in a powerful 1:12 4/5 a half-hour before Churchill Downs' first race Sunday.
"Very solid, what we were looking for," trainer Brad Cox said immediately afterward.
"She did it the right way," he added. "She never disappoints us in the morning, and she has yet to disappoint us in the afternoon. I'm real pleased with her."
Monomoy Girl is 6-for-7 with only a narrow defeat in last fall's Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill. Her victory in Keeneland's Ashland a month before the Kentucky Oaks gave Cox his first Grade 1 victory.
Cox initially was going to have his standout 3-year-old filly work at 7:40 a.m., immediately after the time allotted Belmont Stakes horses at Churchill, then considered waiting until 9 a.m. after the second renovation break. Preferring not to have a major work over a track that was very wet following an early morning thunderstorm, Cox approached track management about allowing the Oaks winner to work before the races. So, instead of a sloppy, sealed track, Monomoy Girl went over a fast, freshly-harrowed surface.
"Thirteen days out, I wanted a good breeze in her," he said. "We could have gone this morning if it had been more of a maintenance work. But I was kind of looking to do something today, so we were looking for a better track. ... I was glad we waited, and I appreciate Churchill giving us the opportunity to do this. It means a lot."
Cox said Monomoy Girl will have an easier work next Sunday. "Definitely not as much," he said. "We'll probably just break off at the half-mile pole, go a half and out five-eighths."
Monomoy Girl was a bit frisky after arriving in front of the grandstand on what became a sunny, humid afternoon, but became all business once jockey Florent Geroux turned her around. On the outside and just a bit off of the graded stakes-placed Dazzling Gem, Monomoy Girl was timed by clocker John Nichols going eighth-mile splits in 13 seconds, 25, 36 3/5 and 48 2/5, with her last quarter-mile going in 22 4/5 seconds and her final eighth in 11 seconds flat to reach five-eighths in 59 2/5 while pulling away from Dazzling Gem in the final sixteenth-mile.
Nichols also timed her galloping out seven-eighths of a mile in 1:26 2/5 before being pulled up.
"The horse she breezed with is pretty nice," Geroux said. "She did everything really well and worked easily. She got by Dazzling Gem with no problem and galloped out very well."
Cox said Monomoy Girl worked with Dazzling Gem the prior week.
"It was a positive move last week, and it seemed to be this week as well," he said. "I wanted him to break off and not really be a target but kind of go together. She sat off him just a little bit going up the backside. But turning for home, they were head and head. You need a decent horse to work with a good filly like this, for her to get something out of it."
Monomoy Girl is owned by Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, the Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables.
Abel Tasman last year became only the third filly to win the Kentucky Oaks and the Acorn during the past 30 years, the others being Bird Town in 2003 and Open Mind in 1989.
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