Mo Donegal Tops Pletcher Trainees Pointing To Belmont Stakes Festival - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Mo Donegal Tops Pletcher Trainees Pointing To Belmont Stakes Festival

Mo Donegal gallops at Churchill Downs

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher sent a number of his stars to breeze over the dirt training track Friday in preparation for engagements at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, including Mo Donegal for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

The three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which runs from Thursday, June 9 through Saturday, June 11, will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.

In addition to the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11, that day's card will include three Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” qualifiers: the one-mile Grade 1, $1 million Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan Handicap for 3-year-olds and up [Dirt Mile]; the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps for older fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going 1 1/16 miles on the main track [Distaff]; and the Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs on turf [Turf Sprint].

The blockbuster Belmont Stakes Day card will also feature the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/4 miles on turf; the Grade 1, $500,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies going one mile; the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at one mile on the turf; the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun in a seven-furlong sprint over Big Sandy for 3-year-olds; and the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational, a 1 1/2-mile test for 4-year-olds and up.

Tickets for the 2022 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival are available at

Joining Mo Donegal on the tab were Nest [Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets], Wit [Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun], Malathaat [Grade 1 Ogden Phipps], Fearless [Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational] and First Constitution [Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational].

Donegal Racing and Repole Stable's Mo Donegal enjoyed a strong campaign at Aqueduct Racetrack, winning the Grade 2 Remsen in December and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino in April.

The late-running Uncle Mo colt was away slow from the inside post last out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, rallying from 17 lengths off the pace to finish fifth, defeated 3 3/4-lengths by upset winner Rich Strike.

Mo Donegal breezed a half-mile in 50.02 Friday in company with Grade 1 Ashland winner Nest, who is possible to take on the boys in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

“It was a good maintenance breeze,” said Pletcher's New York-based assistant Byron Hughes. “They both were moving well and galloped out well. They were on even terms throughout and we were happy with the breeze.”

Owned by Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House, Nest captured the Grade 2 Demoiselle in December at the Big A to launch a win streak that included scores in the Suncoast in February at Tampa Bay Downs ahead of her 8 1/4-length coup in the Ashland at Keeneland. The Curlin filly closed to complete the exacta last out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, finishing two lengths back of Secret Oath.

Shadwell Stable's 2021 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat worked five-eighths in 1:01.58 in company with Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable's multiple graded-stakes winner Wit.

“Both are good breeze horses and made a good matchup,” Hughes said. “They went head-and-head throughout in 1:01 and change and had a good, solid gallop out.”

Malathaat, a regally-bred daughter of Curlin out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, captured the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs last year in a memorable sophomore campaign completed by a close third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff in November at Del Mar.

The talented bay posted a three-quarter length score in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare in April at Keeneland in her seasonal debut and is set to lead a talented field of older fillies and mares in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps expected to include Letruska, the reigning Champion Older Dirt Female.

“She's always been a big filly and has held her weight well. She's always been professional in the mornings and I thought this was a very professional move, similar to what I saw from her last year,” Hughes said.

Wit, by Practical Joke, made two graded starts last summer at Saratoga, romping to an eight-length score in the Grade 3 Sanford in July ahead of a troubled runner-up effort to Gunite in the Grade 1 Hopeful in September. The dark bay colt completed his juvenile campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont and recently won his seasonal debut, taking the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bay Shore by a nose on April 9 at Aqueduct.

“The Bay Shore was a big effort from him. He really dug in there and we were happy with that effort,” Hughes said. “He bounced out of it in really good form and has put in some really solid works. We're really happy with where he is right now.”

Repole Stable's multiple graded-stakes winner Fearless worked a half-mile in 49.55 in company with Don Alberto Stable, WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' multiple stakes winner First Constitution in preparation for the Brooklyn.

“It was a maintenance half-mile and both were moving well,” Hughes said. “They both gave us everything we wanted to see from them.”

Fearless, a 6-year-old gelded son of Ghostzapper, captured the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile and Grade 3 Harlan's Holiday last year at the Hallandale Beach oval. He added the nine-furlong Grade 3 Ghostzapper to his ledger on April 2 at Gulfstream ahead of a runner-up effort last out in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 23.

“He's a big, scopey horse and acts like he would run all day, so I would imagine the distance would not be an issue for him based on what we've been seeing,” Hughes said.

First Constitution, a 5-year-old Chilean-bred son of Constitution, captured his first stateside win in January at the Big A, romping to a 6 3/4-length score in the nine-furlong Jazil. He followed with a third-place finish in the Excelsior in April at Aqueduct ahead of a four-length score over Portos last out in the 11-furlong Flat Out on May 6 at Belmont.

CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm's Americanrevolution has breezed twice over the Belmont dirt training track in preparation for his seasonal debut, including a five-eighths breeze in 1:01.02 on May 16.

“He's doing really well. He came in from WinStar in great shape and has had a couple breezes here now,” Hughes said. “He continues to impress us and we're happy with where he is off the layoff.”

The New York-bred Constitution colt defeated open company in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets last out in December at the Big A to cap a season that included scores against fellow state-breds in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, the Albany at Saratoga and the Empire Classic at Belmont.

The $275,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale purchase is targeting the $200,000 Commentator, a one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up on the May 30 Big Apple Showcase Day card at Belmont.

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