Ballydoyle spearheads raiding party in Belmont Oaks

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July 4th, 2016

Continued from Part I on the Belmont Derby


Ballydoyle’s very name indicates her early reputation. The O’Brien filly is a full sister to Irish classic heroine and multiple Group 1-winning highweight Misty for Me, who was a fast-finishing third in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill. Ballydoyle’s career revolves around strong performances in the top company, replete with the best intersecting formlines.

Pretty green as a baby, Ballydoyle began to get the hang of things when a flying second versus males in the Chesham at Royal Ascot. After slamming eventual Group 1 performer Nemoralia in a Newmarket maiden, Ballydoyle traded decisions with star stablemate Minding. She beat Minding on firmish ground in last August’s Debutante (G2), but a yielding surface in the Moyglare Stud (G1) helped Minding turn the tables. Ballydoyle concluded the season on a high note in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), defeating Turret Rocks and Qemah (who just won the Coronation [G1] at Royal Ascot), in a time considerably faster than the boys in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1).

Ballydoyle returned to action by finishing best of the rest behind Minding in Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1). She missed the Irish equivalent after unsatisfactory bloodwork, and O’Brien skipped the Oaks (G1) at Epsom as well to give her more time. Ballydoyle was next seen in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1), but the combination of soft ground and a poor post (15) conspired against her. She soldiered on from the rear to take sixth in a blanket finish behind unbeaten La Cressoniere. Like stablemate Deauville in the Belmont Derby, Ballydoyle will find the Belmont Oaks the right canvas to display her talents.

Turret Rocks is the cause of a very rare Jim Bolger foray onto American shores. She’s another who should prosper over 1 1/4 miles on a quicker course, but the main question is if that’s enough to bridge her well-established gap with Ballydoyle. Beaten by Ballydoyle in the Debutante, Boussac, and 1000 Guineas, Turret Rocks notched her biggest win in an easier spot, last September’s May Hill (G2) at Doncaster. I thought she loomed as the main challenger to Minding in the Oaks at Epsom, but the soft ground was all against her, and she came apart trying to negotiate the descent to Tattenham Corner. Belmont will suit her much better. And as a daughter of Fastnet Rock, Turret Rocks is eligible to keep improving, so we might not have seen the best of her yet.

Coolmore, O’Brien’s other Belmont Oaks representative, set the pace in the French Oaks and hung tough for fifth (a neck ahead of Ballydoyle). Although she hasn’t lived up to her lofty name so far, that might not be entirely her fault. The full sister to star miler Gleneagles (who notoriously scratched due to soft ground several times last year) has been bedeviled by rain-slowed going for much of her life. Her lone win came in the Park (G3) (with Oaks rival Last Waltz third) on good ground. For that reason, Coolmore has the potential to jump up markedly here.

Magnanime, the lone French raider, is a consistent sort with tactical speed. After her second to the useful gelding Hurricane in the Prix de la Californie over Cagnes-sur-Mer’s Polytrack, she upset the Prix Finlande on rain-softened turf at Chantilly. The third-placer, Zghorta Dance, came back to land the Prix Vanteaux (G3). But beaten Finlande favorite Jemayel exacted revenge in their rematch in the May 16 Prix Saint-Alary (G1), where Magnanime wound up fifth. In contention throughout, she was simply outkicked late, and I’m tempted to think that the better ground at Deauville may have found her out.

On the plus side, Magnanime recorded an intriguing piece of collateral form in her Saint-Alary loss: she was edged for fourth by Left Hand, who’d been fourth to Ballydoyle in last fall’s Boussac, and went on to finish a fine second in the French Oaks. And the Saint-Alary third, Hawksmoor, also furnishes a tie-in. A distant third to Minding in the Fillies’ Mile (G1) last October, Hawksmoor just took the German 1000 Guineas (G2). Magnanime can also call upon a deep female line. The Haras d’Etreham homebred is by Elusive City and out of a Redoute’s Choice half-sister to the unbeaten but star-crossed Zawraq, from the further family of Nashwan, Nayef, and Deep Impact.