Following a much-needed victory on Empire Showcase Day, New York-bred Critical Eye winner Bar of Gold returns on Saturday against open company in the Grade 3, $ 150,000 Bed o’ Roses Handicap for fillies and mares at seven furlongs at Belmont Park.
In the Critical Eye, Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred snapped a seven-race losing streak dating back to April 2015, all at the graded stakes level, after a grabbed quarter suffered in training in the winter at Palm Meadows forced her connections to make some adjustments to the filly’s spring campaign.
“I was looking at shipping her up [to Aqueduct] and run in an A-other-than, which would have a been a nice spot, let her beat up on some horses and get started and then the [Grade 3] Distaff,” said Kimmel. “But it didn’t work out that way. I couldn’t get her on a van and send her. It kind of threw our plans.”
The Medaglia d’Oro filly instead stayed south and started her 4-year-old season in deeper waters, finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Grade 2 Inside Information before shipping to New York to finish a game third to next-out stakes winners Paulassilverlining and Cavorting in the Distaff Handicap on April 17 at Aqueduct.
Finding a more forgiving spot in the one-mile Critical Eye on May 30, Bar of Gold delivered as the 3-2 favorite to hold on for a 1 ½-length victory, the filly’s first stakes win and first going further than seven furlongs.
“She ran fast early and maintained herself,” Kimmel said of the Critical Eye. “Maybe she didn’t finish as well as I thought she might have, but they ran a pretty fast half-mile in 44 4/5 [seconds] and she might’ve gotten a little tired the last part. But, certainly, against New York-breds she had enough [left] and she came out of it in great shape.
“I think the Critical Eye kind of got her back into the winner’s circle and maybe gain some confidence,” he added.
Bar of Gold had opened her career with a three-race win streak against state-breds at Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct before making her stakes debut as a 3-year-old in last summer’s Grade 1 Acorn, her only other start at Belmont, where she was squeezed at the start and shuffled back to finish sixth. She came back with a fourth-place effort in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks and followed with a trio of runner-up finishes, including the Grade 1 Test and Grade 2 Prioress at Saratoga.
“She’s shown well against open company in some pretty tough races, like the Test and the Prioress,” said Kimmel. “And she’s cutting back in distance [in the Bed o’ Roses] and I think that should suit her quite well. I really don’t have much negative to say about her. I think she’s had a pretty good period between races and seven-eighths is probably her ideal distance so I’m looking forward to the race actually. I think she’s going to turn in a big effort.
“We’re looking forward to getting her a graded stakes win and I think it’ll take somebody with a pretty good effort to beat her,” he said. “Obviously, Wavell Avenue is a Breeders’ Cup winner but she’s ran against some Grade 1 type horses before and ran very well.”
Installed at 4-1 on the morning line, Bar of Gold will carry 117 pounds and will be ridden by Junior Alvarado from post 4.
Winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint by a late-closing 1 ¾ lengths, Wavell Avenue will shoulder the field high weight of 123 as she drops down from Grade 1 company for the first time this year. The Chad Brown trainee was third in her 5-year-old season opener in the Grade 1 Madison in April at Keeneland and checked in a distant fourth as the beaten favorite in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
As the 6-5 program favorite, Wavell Avenue will break from post 2 with Joel Rosario aboard.
Michelle Nevin-trained 2014 Grade 1 Frizette winner By the Moon is on tap to make her second start since running third in the Grade 1 Test last August at Saratoga. The Indian Charlie filly returned from an eight-month layoff in the Distaff to finish fourth behind stablemate Paulassilverlining.
Carrying 117 pounds, By the Moon will leave from the rail with Jose Ortiz at 6-1 on the morning line.
Rounding out the field are Grade 3 Vagrancy runner-up West Coast Chick (114 pounds) from the Nick Zito barn; Maryland-bred Mayla (115), a recent optional claiming winner at Churchill Downs, for trainer Bret Calhoun; and graded stakes-placed Pangburn (115), who finished third last out in the Heavenly Prize in March at Aqueduct for trainer Tony Dutrow.
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