Sea Calisi heads Brown trio in New York
A Group 2 winner in France last season, Sea Calisi was an odds-on favorite against four rivals in the 11-furlong Sheepshead Bay May 7. Despite trailing through dawdling fractions of :52 and 1:17 4/5, the daughter of Youmzain easily rallied to seize the lead in upper stretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths while not being asked for much.
Cutting back to 1 1/4 miles does not appear as if it will be a significant hurdle for Sea Calisi who once again faces stablemate Guapaza, runner-up in the Sheepshead Bay, as well as Dacita. Like Guapaza a former mainstay in Chile, Dacita handed Tepin a defeat in last summer's Ballston Spa (G2) at Saratoga, but has placed in only one of three starts in the interim. She was most recently a distant fourth to Tepin in the Jenny Wiley (G1).
"All of them are doing well," Brown said. "Dacita clearly prefers a firm course but all things being equal I would prefer a dryer weather pattern heading into this race. I wouldn't want anything too soft or yielding, but wherever each of our runners place themselves during the race is fine by me."
The New York field also includes multiple graded stakes winner Photo Call, who landed the Orchid (G3) when last seen two months ago, and European shippers Havana Moon and Kyllachy Queen.
The Belmont Stakes eve card also features the $250,000 True North (G2), which marks the return of multiple Grade 1 winner Private Zone. Runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland, the now seven-year-old was fifth in his title defense of the Cigar Mile (G1) November 28.
"He seems to be doing well and his works have been solid," said Brian Lynch, who took over training duties from Jorge Navarro prior to the Cigar Mile. "He looks like he's on top of his game. Friday will tell the story."
"Our plan is to let him run," Lynch added. "He comes into the race in good order."
The small but select field in the six-furlong dash also includes the Navarro-trained Catalina Red, who exits an upset score in the Churchill Downs (G2); Maryland Sprint (G3) victor Always Sunshine; Grade 2 victor Holy Boss; and former Carter H. (G1) hero Dads Caps.
The $300,000 Belmont Gold Cup, for older horses at two miles on the turf, marks the fifth meeting between Da Big Hoss and Kaigan since December. The two have finished in front of the other twice, though Da Big Hoss actually reached the winner's circle in his two triumphs, taking the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) and Elkhorn (G2).
Kaigun has one win and seven placings from his last 12 starts, the lone victory coming in the Pan American (G3) in April. Last time, the gelding failed to fire in the Man o' War (G1), finishing sixth.
Grade 1 veteran Twilight Eclipse is looking to reverse a recent downturn in form, with three unplaced tries since a troubled third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) here in October. Perhaps a more serious threat is French Group 2 winner Now We Can, who was a solid fourth in his last trip to North American in the 2013 Canadian International (G1).
Off the Tracks, who suffered her first career loss to Go Maggie Go in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in April, will attempt to get back on track in the $150,000 Jersey Girl going six furlongs. Third in that two-turn affair conducted on a sloppy track, the dual stakes winner's main rivals include Eight Belles (G2) runner-up Blip n' Th Bye and Kareena, a five-length maiden winner at Keeneland for Godolphin.
Lady Stardust, a 5 1/2-length debut winner at Aqueduct for Wesley Ward, will attempt to outrun six males in the $200,000 Tremont at 5 1/2 furlongs. Previous filly winners of the historic dash for juveniles include Spinalong (1891), Gold Tassel (1917), and Rosie Ogreta (1995).
Theogony, a close second in the Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) at Pimlico three weeks ago, will meet that race's third-place finisher, Joint Return, and nominal front-runner Mei Ling in the $150,000 Rags to Riches over 1 1/2 miles on the main track.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)