BC Preps At Belmont



After Union Rags splashed his way to a 7 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in mid-August, trainer Michael Matz had two choices: wheel the 2-year-old back in three weeks in the Grade 1 Hopeful or wait seven weeks and point to the Grade 1 Champagne.

Matz opted for the latter, figuring if he was going to have to run Union Rags back on relatively short rest, he’d rather do it for a race like the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile four weeks from now at Churchill Downs.

Matz and eight of his colleagues will find out if they have the goods for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when a field of nine 2-year-olds goes postward in the $300,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. The Champagne, one of three Grade 1 stakes on the 10-race card, is a Win and You’re In race, affording the winner an entry-fees-paid trip to the Juvenile, plus $10,000 in travel expenses.

Union Rags, a son of Dixie Union, won the Saratoga Special in front-running fashion under Javier Castellano – dueling with three other horses early – after coming from off the pace to win his debut at Delaware Park.

“From the one hole, I think Castellano had it in his mind to go,” Matz said “It worked out, and he ran a big race. He came out of it good, he’s trained good up until now. When the distances start to get longer, and he doesn’t have to be pressed much in the beginning, I think it’ll be to his advantage.”


My Miss Aurelia won the Grade 2 Adirondack on Aug. 14 at Saratoga, but she might have only been the second-best 2-year-old filly to race on that day’s card.

Two races earlier, Stopshoppingmaria galloped to a 9 3/4-length maiden win, running six furlongs in 1:09.87, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 101.

Saturday, My Miss Aurelia and Stopshoppingmaria square off in the Grade 1, $300,000 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park. The winner earns an automatic berth – including all entry-fees paid plus a $10,000 travel stipend – into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

My Miss Aurelia and Stopshoppingmaria met opening day at Saratoga. My Miss Aurelia won the race by one length over Delightful Magic, while Stopshoppingmaria finished third, beaten three lengths. However, Stopshoppingmaria stumbled badly breaking from the rail, and wound up chasing the top two around the track. In her second start, she broke cleanly from the rail and recorded the front-running victory.

“I thought she ran courageously first time out considering she stumbled and got stuck behind horses,’’ trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She showed gameness and came back and was very impressive I thought.’’


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