Two-time graded stakes-winner Our Flash Drive will square off against seven other stakes winners in a wide-open field for Sunday’s 27th running of the $150,000 Pebbles for sophomore fillies going one mile over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.
Owned by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation and trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, Our Flash Drive has done no wrong during her 2021 campaign winning all three of her starts. The homebred daughter of Ghostzapper made the third time the charm off ten month’s rest when breaking her maiden on June 19 going seven furlongs over the Tapeta surface at Woodbine.
Our Flash Drive displayed versatility following her maiden score with graded stakes wins at the Toronto oval, capturing the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Selene over the all-weather surface on July 10 over next-out Woodbine Oaks winner Munnyfor Ro by 2 ¼ lengths. Six weeks later, she made her turf debut a winning one with a 1 ½-length win in the one-mile Grade 3 Ontario Colleen, garnering a career-best 82 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We couldn’t be any happier with her,” said Casse assistant Shane Tripp. “It seems like a one-turn mile suits her. David Adams [Casse Woodbine assistant] has had her at Woodbine and she looks great. All the horses who come from up there do.”
Jockey Dylan Davis will pick up the mount from post 2.
Casse also sends out multiple graded stakes-placed Spanish Loveaffair for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Michael Hernon and Gary Barber.
The bay daughter of Karakontie is in search of her first win since the Sharp Susan last August at Gulfstream Park. After capping off her juvenile season with a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Jessamine and a sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, both at Keeneland, she crossed the wire first in her 2021 bow in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride in February at Gulfstream Park but was disqualified to fourth.
She arrives off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Lake Placid on August 21 at Saratoga.
“It rained last time and the turf was soft,” Tripp said. “She didn’t have the greatest of trips, but she’s doing well and I expect her to run well.”
Jockey Junior Alvarado will ride from post 11.
Fresh off a training title at Saratoga, Chad Brown will seek a fourth straight triumph in the Pebbles when saddling a formidable pair in Minaun [post 3, Luis Saez] and Nazuna [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.].
Owned by Bradley Thoroughbreds, Iris Smith Stable and Rigney Racing, Minaun made her North American debut a winning one in April, defeating allowance company by three lengths going six furlongs over the inner turf at Belmont.
A Group 3 winner at two in her native Ireland, the bay daughter of Zoffany added North American black type to her ledger with a close second in the one-mile Wild Applause on June 20 at Belmont. She followed with a fifth in the Grade 3 Lake George after exiting outermost post 9 on July 23 at the Spa, finishing 3 ½ lengths to stable mate Technical Analysis.
Although winless in two starts at one mile, Brown assistant Dan Stupp said the distance should be no issue for Minaun.
“Distance is definitely not a problem. The wide post last time compromised her quite a bit,” Stupp said. “She ran well first time for us in the spring and was unlucky but ran well in her first stakes try for us. She ran fine last time two turns at Saratoga, but she had a wide post and I think getting back here is great. Based on her work here, she’s coming into the race well. Cutting back to one turn should be good for her, especially at Belmont. She should appreciate it.”
Nazuna will make her debut for Brown after finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational on August 8 for former conditioner Roger Varian. The Kodiac bay was previously campaigned in Great Britain, earning black type when second in both the Group 2 Rockfell last September at Newmarket and the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth on June 5 at Epsom.
Nazuna worked in company with multiple Grade 1-winner Domestic Spending over the inner turf on September 12, completing a half-mile in 49.65 seconds.
“She worked with Domestic Spending and went excellent, made a good account for herself,” Stupp said.
Trainer Christophe Clement attempts his third Pebbles victory, saddling graded stakes winner Plum Ali.
The 3-year-old daughter of First Samurai will seek her first win since capturing the Grade 2 Miss Grillo during her juvenile season. Plum Ali garnered more graded stakes black type when third in the Grade 2 Appalachian on April 3 at Keeneland and second in the Grade 3 Wonder Again on June 3 at Belmont Park, ahead of unplaced finishes in the first two legs of the filly division of the Turf Triple Series.
“She’s doing very well,” said Clement assistant Christophe Lorieul. “We’re trying to shorten her up a little bit to see if there’s more pace up front and trying to get a little bit closer, because we’ve given her a lot to do when she runs those longer distances. We just want to get something new, but she’s doing very well.”
Plum Ali boasts the highest bankroll in the field with $579,500 in earnings through an 8-3-1-1 record.
Jockey Jose Ortiz will climb aboard Plum Ali for the first time since engineering a winning trip in the Miss Grillo from post 1.
Completing the field are stakes-winners Keeper of Time [post 5, Eric Cancel], an upset winner of the Group 3 Irish 1000 Guineas Trial in April who makes her second start in North America; Lovestruck [post 8, Joe Bravo], the winner of last year’s Tepin at Aqueduct; two-time stakes-winner Spirit of Bermuda [post 10, John Velazquez]; Runaway Rumour [post 12, Jose Lezcano], who captured the Wild Applause in June at Belmont; Miss Dracarys [post 4, Javier Castellano]; Third Draft [post 6, Jorge Vargas, Jr.]; Jordan’s Leo [post 9, Ramon Vazquez]; and Oyster Box [post 13, Kendrick Carmouche].
The Pebbles pays tribute to the 1985 Champion Grass Mare who captured the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf against males that year at Aqueduct. Trained by Clive Brittain and owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, Pebbles also captured the British 1000 Guineas, the Coral Eclipse and back-to-back victories in the Champion at Newmarket.
First post on Sunday’s 10-race card is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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Photo: Belmont Oaks ( NYRA Photo)