2018 Beverly D. international scouting report: Athena
Aidan O’Brien has never won the Beverly D. (G1), but he hadn’t won the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) either, until Athena ran rough-shod over the field on July 7.
Athena’s pedigree details – as a daughter of red-hot Camelot and granddaughter of blue hen Urban Sea – and her superb form lines were examined in her scouting report for the Belmont Oaks. As the runner-up to Sea of Class in the Oaks Trial at Newbury, third to Urban Fox and Forever Together in the Pretty Polly (G1), and fourth to Magic Wand and Wild Illusion in the Ribblesdale (G2), Athena had been competing against the cream of her crop.
That record has stood up well since her Belmont conquest, in both the July 21 Irish Oaks (G1) and the August 2 Nassau (G1) at Glorious Goodwood.
Sea of Class validated her big reputation in the Irish Oaks, collaring Epsom Oaks star Forever Together to deny her the classic double. Although Magic Wand was an off-form fifth at the Curragh, incubating the bug that struck Ballydoyle recently, the Ribblesdale form was boosted when Wild Illusion went on to wire the Nassau over Urban Fox. And the mare who finished last in the Pretty Polly to Urban Fox, Forever Together, and Athena – Turret Rocks – also came back to nail Arlington Million (G1) contender Deauville in the Meld (G3).
My one quibble about Athena going into the Belmont Oaks was that she might be a bit dour to win the 1 1/4-mile prize, and that thought recurred when she lagged well off the pace in eighth. But she comprehensively refuted it with an overpowering rally. Judging by jockey Ryan Moore’s prerace comments on his Betfair blog, and her 10-1 odds, Athena’s breakout performance may have come as a pleasant surprise to connections too.
Indeed, it wasn’t merely that she outstayed them late; she outkicked them pointless. Already looking like the winner unwinding in upper stretch, Athena took full charge at the eighth-pole. The final furlong was only a question of how far (2 1/2 lengths).
Athena’s time of 1:58.71 validated the visual impression. That was faster than the males in the Belmont Derby (G1), although their 1:59.28 reflected a much slower early pace. Athena had the better pace set-up, but she did her part by speeding the final quarter in :22.63 according to Trakus (which clocked her in 1:59.00).
With the European form in the book, and a serious turn of foot brought forth in American conditions, the question now turns to whether Athena can duplicate that effort in the Beverly D. It’s her second transatlantic journey in a month, and a few of O’Brien’s fillies have thrown in clunkers of late. Aside from the aforementioned Magic Wand, Athena’s two-year-old full sister, Goddess, is a case in point: a 10-length maiden winner on July 12, Goddess was bet down to 4-9 favoritism in the July 26 Silver Flash (G3), only to flop in last. While that background has to be mentioned, it shouldn’t be overblown either, and I’d expect Athena to run her race.
Of greater moment is that Athena is cutting back slightly to 1 3/16 miles, and facing stronger competition from older distaffers than she did from the Belmont Oaks fillies. The pace and tactical position are the key. If she gets a solid enough tempo, or doesn’t fall too far off a moderate pace, Athena is a danger to emulate Euro Charline (2014) and become just the second sophomore to win the Beverly D.
Photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese/Susie Raisher