The fourth running of the Grade 3, $ 250,000 Intercontinental, for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at seven furlongs on the Widener Turf, features a field of 11 talented runners to round out the graded stakes action on opening day of the third annual Belmont Stakes Day Racing Festival, presented by NYRA Bets, alongside the Grade 3, $ 200,000 Wonder Again and the $ 150,000 Astoria.
Stepping up to face graded stakes competition for the first time is Waterville Lake Stable’s Portmagee for trainer Christophe Clement. The lightly raced 4-year-old filly by Hard Spun has three wins from five career starts and enters the Intercontinental coming off an impressive 1 ½-length victory on April 30 in the License Fee. Having never raced past six furlongs, Clement admitted mild concern about the distance, but likes the way she is training, most recently breezing four furlongs in 48.87 seconds on Saturday.
“She had an easy work this morning,” said Clement. “She looked well and very willing. I was delighted with the way she won her last race. This is an extra furlong compared to that, but why not? I thought she’s training well enough to try.”
Drawing post 8 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard, Clement added that Portmagee is flexible enough to be on or just off the pace if necessary, depending on how the race shapes out.
“She’s versatile and has speed,” added Clement. “Irad will ride her again, which is great and we’ll see what happens.”
Fair Point is looking to pick up her first victory of the year for owner Stuart S. Janney III and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. The 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike has a victory and second-place finish in two starts at the distance. She capped her 2016 season with a win in the Grade 3 Senator Ken Maddy at Santa Anita Park, following a strong second-place finish by a neck in the Grade 3 Franklin County, and a victory in the Smart N Fancy at Belmont. She was fourth in the License Fee, her first start of the year following a five-month layoff, but McGaughey was encouraged by her effort coming off the bench.
“She’s doing good,” said McGaughey. “We knocked the dust off her last time and I thought she came out of it well. I think she’s been training well since then.”
Drawing post 4, Fair Point will be ridden by Jose Ortiz.
Shipping in from California for trainer Paddy Gallagher and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners is Lady Valeur. The Irish-bred 4-year-old has not raced at the distance since coming to the U.S. and is coming off a 1 ¾-length victory on May 13 in the Golden Poppy Stakes at Golden Gate. Last year, she entered a bevy of stakes including a third-place finish in the Grade 1 American Oaks.
Set to depart from the rail, jockey Flavien Prat will be in the irons.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle a pair of formidable 4-year-olds in Take These Chains for owner John Gunther and Conquest Babayaga for Louis Lazzinnaro.
Unbeaten in her three career starts and with two wins at the distance, Take These Chains made her debut in March of last year and has followed up with a pair of optional-claiming victories at Belmont, most recently on April 28. Conquest Babayaga is a daughter of Uncle Mo and she will head into the Intercontinental on a three-race win streak; including a recent allowance win onApril 20 at Keeneland.
Leaving from post 9, Take These Chains will be ridden by Javier Castellano. Conquest Babayaga will depart from post 7 with Joel Rosario aboard.
Rounding out the field for the Intercontinental is Josdesanimaux for owners Palm Beach Racing and trainer Ralph Nicks; Rapid Rhythm for trainer Michael Stidham and owner Robert Evans; Mississippi Delta for trainer Mark Casse and owner Mike Rutherford; Perfect Pic for owner Deron Pearson and trainer James Cassidy; Nobody’s Fault for trainer Neil Pessin and Lothenbach Stables; and Outsider Art for Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard and owner-breeders Martha and Delmar Pettigrew.
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