On Saturday, three Graded races were held at the Belmont Park, and even though the card was probably overshadowed by the Kentucky Derby meeting at Churchill Downs, the performances of victorious horses were definitely eye-catching. Primarily, Virginia Joy utterly stunned her rivals in the G2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes that she scored by abysmal 14 lengths, upon which L’Imperator was a decisive winner of the G2 Fort Marcy Stakes, and Cody’s Wish fulfilled the role of a favourite in the G3 Westchester Stakes.
Sheepshead Bay Stakes
Although Virginia Joy arrived in the US with interesting achievements from Germany, such a commanding performance still wasn’t expected of the mare sired by Soldier Hollow. She, indeed, bagged the G3 The Very One Stakes in March but just by a length; however, when she was faced with the yielding ground and the lack of pace, Virginia Joy just thrived on the front and looked like a real champ that she is gradually becoming.
With just four participants, this G2 turf race with the purse of $200,000 turned into a one-horse show as Virginia Joy (9-20) effortlessly fulfilled the role of a favorite here. At the distance of a mile and three furlongs, the five-year-old mare was the clear chance among four-year-old fillies and older mares, which the German-born bay deemed right.
Piloted by Trevor McCarthy, Virginia Joy made all, and in the final turn, she scooted away from her rivals to score the race by full 14 lengths in 2m 30.88s, setting a new track record. Unchallenged, she cruised home in front of Luck Money (48-10) in second and Lovely Lucky (44-5) in third.
The rest of the field basically had no chance with her, even though Lovely Lucky tried to pursue her only to weaken considerably in the last turn, unable to hold on to the second place. Luck Money bettered her, while Sister Otoole (33-10) was the last finisher, with Mia Martina scratching a before the race.
Fort Marcy Stakes
After our pick Doswell scratched, seven four-year-old and older horses clashed in this G2 turf race at the distance of a mile and a furlong. The purse of $200,000 attracted three charges of Chad Brown, who managed to strike gold also in this event but a bit surprisingly thanks to five-year-old L’Imperator (103-10), who seemed suited by the yielding ground here.
After a good start, Eric Cancel let the gelding gallop on the front, where he remained until the very end as in the final stretch, he just extended his lead to 3 and ¼ of a length. Crossing the wire in 1m 59.72s, he left his stable-mate Sacred Life (39-10) in second and Glynn County (24-1) in third.
L’Imperator was perceived as the weakest lot sent in by Chad Brown due to his underwhelming results at the Graded scene. Out of five outings among such a company, the French-born bay only once hit the board until Saturday when he put on a commanding performance to secure his premiere Graded triumph.
His seven-year-old colleague Sacred Life showed a good turn of foot in the final stretch, closing on the boldly running outsider Glynn County whom he fought with for some time to better him in the end, unlike a couple of preferred participants. Neither City Man (41-20) nor Rockemperor (41-20) impacted the race much and had to settle for fourth and fifth places, respectively.
Also, this G3 dirt race held at the distance of a mile didn’t see a big field as only five four-year-old and older horses competed here for the purse of $200,000. On the sloppy surface, favourite Cody’s Wish had a good start alongside three other participants, subsequently settling in second behind Sound Money (3-1) to smoothly pass him by at the beginning of the final stretch.
Under Junior Alvarado, Cody’s Wish then drew clear from him to score the race by five lengths in 1m 34.68s. Sound Money had no trouble securing second place in front of the third Zoomer (57-10).
The William Mott-trained four-year-old Cody’s Wish looks to be a fine progressive son of Curlin as he concluded a victorious hattrick in Allowance races in 2021. He finished second at the G3 scene in the new season before bagging his first Graded triumph on Saturday.
The talented colt lent no chance to his rivals. After leaving Sound Money behind, nobody actually closed neither on him nor on the pace-setter, which left Sound Money in second place with the advantage of six and ½ lengths over third Zoomer.
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