Female jockey set to ride filly in Belmont Stakes reads the headline for the AP story on Rosie Napravnik riding Unlimited Budget for Pletcher. To me, the bigger if not the only real news there is about the horse. I've been watching women ride at high levels of the game in New York and at tracks around the country all my life, so it's rather second nature to me, and I haven't really been paying much mind or attention to the stories about Ms. Napravnik throughout the Triple Crown season. Like the others before her, Rosie has established herself as a trusted member of the jockey room in a world of good ol' boys; her record speaks for itself, and doesn't need to be validated in the overhyped Triple Crown series in my view. Reading further though, I was surprised to read that Rosie is the first woman to ride in all three races in the same year; and that she was only the third woman to ever ride in the Preakness. I would have guessed that it was less uncommon. So, it's worth the mention, and makes for an appealing story line (though NBC already used their Michelle Beadle/Rosie card in the Preakness). But it still just doesn't register as a big deal to me, to be honest.
Now, before I say anything to get me in (any further?) trouble with the females of the species that can read this, let's turn to the horse. The prospect of the Toddster running a filly with such obvious talent is of course reminiscent of Rags to Riches in the 2007 Belmont, easily the most exciting and memorable edition of the race since Victory Gallop ran down Real Quiet in 1998. (And one of my few successful Belmont Stakes wagers.) Commenting on the two, Pletcher said:
“Both have accomplished a lot and both are big, strong fillies, which is what you look for when planning to run against colts.....Unlimited Budget is a strong filly with a lot of conditioning. [NY Daily News]Their running styles are actually pretty similar, both being of the stalker/mid-pack closer type. While Rags to Riches had won three of four coming into the Belmont, Unlimited Budget has won four of five. However, I don't think anyone can make the case that the two are comparable talent-wise at this stage. Rags to Riches lost her first race before reeling off three Grade 1 wins in a row, winning the Kentucky Oaks with a Beyer of 104. Unlimited Budget won her first four, including two Grade 2's, but fell short in the Oaks.
However, I do find her a little interesting here. She did run a 98 Beyer two back in her FG Oaks win, and that number definitely puts her in the range of these. Surely has the running style to win (perhaps Pletcher should instruct Rosie to make the horse stumble out of the gate), and there's some pedigree there. She's a daughter of the Derby winner Street Sense out of a mare by Valid Appeal (an old favorite who we don't see close-up much in pedigrees these days; associate him more with milers to be honest, but man, watch out if it rains) who's a half-sister to the Super Derby winner Outofthebox and to the dam of the versatile Tackleberry. OK, maybe not crying out for distance, but I'm trying to not get too caught up in that this year and handicap the Belmont more like a regular race. Yeah, we'll see how that turns out.
- In the 8th at Belmont on Friday, Lead Singer (8-1) looks to bounce back after tiring to finish well back in his first try against winners, for trainer John Kimmel. This barn got off to a slow start to the meet, but has definitely shown life of late with two winners and two seconds from its last seven starts. Son of Unbridled's Song graduated two back with a nice figure on my numbers. Moving up to allowance company in his last, he encountered yielding turf and a loose on the lead Stormy Len (7-2), who was cutting a steady Oxbow-like pace on his own. When prompted, Lead Singer made a nice wide move into that pace, drawing even as they turned for home. The problems noted in the long form trouble line comment - bump, squeeze, steadied - took place I think after he had started to tire, but surely contributed to his 15 3/4 length margin of defeat. Two nice works since then; and note that his bullet half-mile three days ago replicates his workout pattern prior to his maiden win. Perhaps he prefers the firm course he'll get today; and perhaps Stormy Len doesn't enjoy the same unchallenged lead? Seems worth his 8-1 morning line to find out. Mills (3-1) earned the top number in the race on my figs rallying to graduate at Keeneland in his last, and three horses from that race have subsequently come back to win. Cuts back in distance here, and the Tagg barn has sent out a lot of well-bet losers of late; but seems the one to beat. Odeon (4-1) ships in for west coast trainer John Sherriffs, who seems to have a contingent here; but his first two runners have raced poorly despite being well-bet; wait and see. Best of luck and have a great day.