Zhukova Back at Belmont Park for Flower Bowl

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Alastair Bull

October 6th, 2017

Irish mare Zhukova has already crossed the Atlantic once for a grade one victory on the Belmont Park turf. On Sunday, she seeks a second.

The Dermot Weld-trained mare beat the males in the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War Stakes earlier this year. This time it’s the fillies and mares she’s taking on, in the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) over 1 ¼ miles.

The race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, with the winner gaining a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Since her Man o’War triumph Zhukova finished fourth in the Pretty Polly Stakes (G1) against fillies and mares, and then finished eighth in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) against a hot field containing some of the best 1 ¼- mile horses in Europe.

As is often the case in fillies and mares’ turf races, Chad Brown has a strong hand for the locals. He’s starting Dacita and Grand Jete, who at their previous starts finished first and third, respectively, in the Beverly D. Stakes (G1) at Arlington.

Coming into the race after consecutive placings at grade three level is War Flag, who faces her biggest test to date. Guilty Twelve, winner of the Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes (G3) earlier this year, and Indiana General Assembly Distaff Stakes winner Beauly complete the field.

Grand Jete is the 9-5 morning-line favorite, but her stablemate Dacita may be the best chance of defeating Zhukova in the race. The top three appear to be the class acts of the field, but all should be considered to some degree for the multiples.