ELMONT, N.Y. - An evenly matched group of 3-year-old fillies is set to contest Belmont Park's Grade 1, $300,000 Mother Goose at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday, led by Treadway Racing Stable's Wonder Gal.
Trained by Leah Gyarmati, Wonder Gal was cut out to be a good one. The daughter of Tiz Wonderful was purchased for $210,000 at auction and made her debut last July in the Lynbrook Stakes for 2-year-old New York-bred fillies, which she won by 14 Â½ lengths.
Wonder Gal's encore didn't go as planned - she finished a troubled third in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga Race Course - but then came back to run second in the Grade 1 Frizette over a sloppy track at Belmont. The dark bay filly made a trip to the Breeders' Cup to close out her juvenile campaign, but again endured a difficult trip and finished third, beaten a length.
Returning in the Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct Racetrack, Wonder Gal finished a disappointing fourth, but in her most recent start, the Grade 1 Acorn on June 6 at Belmont, she returned to form and finished third.
"I thought she ran huge [in the Acorn]," said Gyarmati. "It was a really good ride. Maybe if she were outside, she may have had a shot to win. She got in a little tight in the stretch, and she's a big horse, when she's got some momentum she needs to keep going. She ran huge and tried really hard."
With only three weeks between the Acorn and the Mother Goose, Gyarmati was unsure whether she wanted to run Wonder Gal on such short rest, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to try a Grade 1 in her backyard.
"I was back and forth whether or not I wanted to run her or wait for the [Grade 1] Coaching Club American Oaks [at Saratoga], but she was doing so well and we're here at home so it seemed like a good spot to go ahead and run her," she said. "She hasn't run much. She was off all that time then ran in the Gazelle, and then had another long break. She's not over-raced."
Wonder Gal, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will break from outermost post 10 with Rajiv Maragh aboard.
The lightly-raced Embellish the Lace will out for trainer Tony Dutrow and owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. The bay filly, who is a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and a half-sister to Travers winner Afleet Express, has won her past two races by a combined 24 lengths, earning a field-best Beyer Speed Figure of 95 for her most recent effort.
Embellish the Lace sits at 7-2 on the morning line, and will break from the rail with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
Undefeated filly Munasara will try stakes company for the first time on Saturday. The daughter of Bernardini took her debut by 2 Â¾ lengths at Gulfstream Park in March, and then won an optional claimer at Belmont by 2 Â½ lengths on May 1.
"She's a very nice filly," said Munasara's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin. "This is a big step up to a Grade 1, but we think she's a special filly. She's trained very well and won her first two races the right way. We'll find out how good she is Saturday."
Munasara, who is out of Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Lahudood, will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post 4. She is listed at 10-1 on the morning line.
Notable contenders also include Eskenformoney (4-1), second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks; Include Betty (5-1), second in the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan; and Danessa Deluxe (8-1), fourth in the Black Eyed Susan.
Hot City Girl, Chide, Pleasant Tales and Money'soncharlotte round out the field.