ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Christophe Clement, who has two horses entered in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker on Saturday, will up the ante on Sunday, when he will saddle three horses in a contentious edition of the Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia at Belmont Park.
The Athenia, a 1 1/16-mile grass race for fillies and mares, highlights a 10-race card that also features the return of Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Constitution.
Leading the charge among Clement's trio is Anecdote, a British import listed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Anecdote made her North American debut in her latest start, in which she uncoiled a devastating late rally to score a 2 Â¾-length victory in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont. Previously, the Lucky Story filly won a Group 3 race in Great Britain, and finished third in the Group 3 Totepoolliveinfo.com Chartwell Stakes earlier this year.
If Anecdote is to add the Athenia to her resume, she must overcome the outermost post 12 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
"She won very impressively [in the Noble Damsel], and came out of the race in good shape," said Clement, who trains Anecdote for George Bolton and Peter Leidel. "I don't think she'll like it too soft, so we'll have to keep an eye on the weather forecast. Of course, I'm not thrilled with [post 12], especially going 1 1/16 miles."
After exhausting her allowance conditions, Maximova will taste graded stakes company for the second time in her career on Sunday. In her first graded stakes attempt, the daughter of Danehill Dancer finished seventh in last year's Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Gallagher's Stud, Maximova enters the Athenia off a pair of strong efforts at the optional claiming level. In her most recent start, the bay filly rallied from the back of the pack to win by a length over an inner turf course labeled "good" at the Spa.
"Maximova always runs better when the ground is soft. I had her entered in the [Grade 1] Flower Bowl anticipating a soft course, but the rain missed us," said Clement. "She's been training well, so we'll give it a try."
Maximova, 12-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by Manny Franco from post 9.
Completing Clement's triumvirate is Cushion, who, like Anecdote, has done the majority of her running overseas. The daughter of Galileo made her first North American appearance on June 28 at Belmont, when she took a first-level allowance race by 1 Â¼ lengths over firm turf. The bay filly returned in the 1 Â½-mile Waya Stakes at Saratoga, and finished 10th as the 3-1 favorite.
"Cushion has been training well. It's a bit ambitious, but she deserves a shot," said Clement.
Owned by Guy Roxburghe and Mrs. John Magnier, Cushion will break from post 11 with Cornelio Velasquez aboard. She sits at 12-1 on the morning line.
Canadian based trainer, Malcolm Pierce, who has the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the Knickerbocker, will also make his presence felt in the Athenia with the late-running Overheard.
Overheard has had a brief but productive 2014 campaign. The Macho Uno filly finished second to Tannery in the Ms. Liberty Stakes in her seasonal debut, won the Grade 2 Dance Smartly in her second outing, and finished second in the Grade 3 Violet in her third start of the year.
In the Violet, the Pin Oak Stable color-bearer had a daunting 6 Â¾ lengths to make up in the stretch, but finished with a flourish to miss by 2 Â¼ lengths.
"There wasn't much pace in the race and we were a little farther back than you would have liked [in the Violet]. We also had to go wide around the turn," said Pierce. "She's a very nice filly; she gives you 110 percent every time."
Javier Castellano will be aboard Overheard, 7-2 on the morning line, and the duo will depart from the rail.
Rounding out the field are graded stakes winners Byrama and La Tia; listed stakes winners Baffle Me, Embarr, and Julie's Love; and It's My Time and Nashly's Vow. Teen Pauline is entered for the main track only.