Belmont Park Notes: NY-bred Step Dancer JC Derby, Magic Attitude Fasig-Tipton Waya, Japan Joe Hirsch Turf Classic G1, Belmont probables

September 17, 2021

New York-bred Step Dancer stretches out in $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational

ELMONT, N.Y. – Hayward Pressman, Diamond M Stable and Donna R. Pressman’s New York-bred Step Dancer will step into elite company in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational, a 12-furlong test on the Widener turf at Belmont Park.

The Jockey Club Derby, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1, $4 million Longines Turf in November at Del Mar, is the final leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for males that commenced with the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby [won by Bolshoi Ballet] in July and continued with the Grade 1, $1 million Saratoga Derby [won by State of Rest] in August at historic Saratoga Race Course.

The Jockey Club Derby is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s lucrative 11-race card which will also feature the 1 3/8-mile $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks, the concluding leg of the Turf Triple series for 3-year-old fillies, in Race 9; and the 1 5/8-mile $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational in Race 4.

Trained by Barclay Tagg, Step Dancer showed promise as a juvenile posting a 24-1 debut win traveling 1 1/16 miles on the Saratoga turf last September before finishing third in the Grade 2 Pilgrim in October at Belmont Park. The War Dancer bay completed a solid campaign with a three-quarter length score against open company in the 1 1/16-mile Awad over yielding Belmont turf on October 31.

Tagg said he appreciates Step Dancer’s willingness to compete.

“I’ve watched a lot of horses over the years. Everything you see about him in the morning gives you confidence. He’s an athlete,” said Tagg.

Bred in the Empire State by Sugar Plum Farm and Richard Pressman, Step Dancer launched his sophomore campaign in March with an off-the-board effort in the Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park ahead of a close third in a 1 1/16-mile New York-bred allowance optional claimer on May 13 at Belmont Park.

Step Dancer was a late-closing second in the seven-furlong NYSSS Spectacular Bid on June 19 at Belmont and will enter Saturday’s test on a high note after overcoming a troubled start in the one-mile NYSSS Cab Calloway on July 28 at the Spa, rallying four-wide down the lane to defeat his fellow eligible New York-sired rivals.

Tagg said he wasn’t surprised by the game effort.

“He’s a hard-running horse. He likes to do it,” Tagg said. “I don’t know if he’s a great horse or not, but I have a lot of confidence in him. He tries every time.”

Tagg said Step Dancer should appreciate the significant stretch out in distance.

“I’ve never felt like he couldn’t run long. I might change my mind this coming Sunday, but not yet,” Tagg said with a laugh. “He’s always seemed like he could go a distance. Anything you ask him to do, he does it. He loves his sport. Some horses are just like that.”

Jockey Dylan Davis has never finished off the board in five starts piloting Step Dancer and will retain the mount from post 5 in a field headlined by European raiders Bolshoi Ballet and Yibir.

The veteran conditioner said he will let Davis work out a sensible trip.

“It all depends on the pace of the race as you go along. You can be laying fifth and it might be just like taking him back in another race,” Tagg said. “Dylan’s a good rider. He’s intelligent and fearless. He’s ridden very well for me.”

Tagg has enjoyed great success with New York-breds in his career, capturing two-thirds of the 2003 Triple Crown [Kentucky Derby and Preakness] with Funny Cide, and completing the set last year with Tiz the Law’s popular score in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

Step Dancer, who will look to add another New York-bred moment to Tagg’s impressive ledger, posted an easy five-furlong breeze in 1:01.85 Sunday on the Belmont inner turf in his final preparation for Saturday’s test.

“He went fine. I don’t think they have to go out there and show off every time they breeze. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” said Tagg.

Regardless of the result on Saturday, Tagg said he appreciates Step Dancer’s winning spirit.

“He’s a very honest horse. Tried and true,” Tagg said. “They’re [good horses] hard to find but he is one and no matter how he runs on Saturday, he’s alright by me.”

Magic Attitude winning the 2020 Belmont Oaks. (Janet Garaguso)

Magic Attitude could target G3 Fasig-Tipton Waya

Trainer Arnaud Delacour said Magic Attitude, last year’s Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational winner, is possible for the Grade 3, $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya, an 11-furlong turf test for older fillies and mares on October 3. 

Owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable, the 4-year-old daughter of the late Galileo last raced when sixth in the Grade 1 Diana over nine furlongs of good turf on July 17 at Saratoga. In addition to the Belmont Oaks, she also won the Grade 3 Sheepshead Bay on May 1 over the Belmont inner turf. 

“Magic Attitude is doing well,” Delacour said. “She wants firm turf. That’s where she performs best. Good to soft, she’s not that kind of filly. Unfortunately, at Saratoga, the ground wasn’t quite to her liking. We tried in the Diana, but we’ll probably try to find some firmer turf. We’re looking into the Waya or going west to Santa Anita for the [Grade 1] Rodeo Drive [on October 2].”

Bred in Great Britain by Katsumi Yoshida, Magic Attitude is out of the Group 1-winning Exceed and Excel mare Margot Did, who also produced Group 2 winner Mission Impassible – a full-brother to Magic Attitude. 

Delacour added that Koala Princess, who won the 6 1/2-furlong Ainsworth on September 12 at Kentucky Downs, is a possible candidate for the Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo, a 1 1/16-mile turf test for juvenile fillies on October 2 at Belmont Park. 

The Runnymede Farm, Peter Callahan and Chris Zinkhan homebred broke her maiden at Monmouth Park going 5 ½ furlongs on August 21 before stretching out an extra eighth of a mile for her last out stakes coup. 

“We’ll see how she comes out of her last race,” Delacour said. 

Japan (GB) (outside, purple cap) was second to Gufo (on the rail) by a neck in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga on August 28, 2021. (NYRA/Coglianese) 

Japan possible for G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

T.J. Comerford, traveling assistant for trainer Aidan O’Brien, said multiple Group 1-winner Japan is possible to ship back to North America for the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, a 12-furlong turf test for 3-year-olds and up on October 9. 

Owned by Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, in partnership with Masaaki Matsushima, Japan posted a game runner-up effort last out in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational on August 28, rallying to finish second, a neck behind Gufo.

Boasting earnings in excess of $2.3 million, Japan, a 5-year-old son of Galileo, won the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp and the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York during his sophomore campaign. Winless in five starts last year, he kicked off his 5-year-old campaign with vigor, notching the Group 3 Ormonde on May 13 at Chester. He captured the Group 3 Green Room Meld on July 15 at Leopardstown ahead of the Sword Dancer. 

“He ran well at Saratoga. He was a little unlucky that he didn’t get out, but he ran a really good race,” Comerford said. “He stays well. He actually seems to be getting better. He seems to be coming back to his old self, which is good. He’s a Juddmonte winner at York and that was his last Group 1.”

O’Brien captured the 2011 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic with Cape Blanco, who also was owned by the Coolmore conglomerate. 

Bred in Great Britain by Newsells Park Stud, Japan is out of the Danehill mare Shastye, making him a full brother to Mogul, the winner of last year’s Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris and the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase. He also is a full brother to Secret Gesture, a Group 2 winner and runner-up of the 2013 Epsom Oaks.

Belmont Park week 2 stakes probables

Friday, September 24

$150K Joseph A. Gimma

Probable: Adversity (Mark Casse), Classy Edition (Todd Pletcher), November Rein (Kelly Breen), Shesawildjoker (David Donk), Velvet Sister (Steve Asmussen)

Possible: Moam (Horacio DePaz)

$125K Ashley T. Cole

Probable: City Man (Christophe Clement), Graded On A Curve (Chad Brown), Sanctuary City (James Ferraro), Therapist (Clement)

Possible: Cross Border (Mike Maker)

Saturday, September 25

G2 Kelso

Probable: Life Is Good (Todd Pletcher), Mo Mosa (Maker)

Sunday, September 26

G2 Gallant Bloom

Probable: Bella Sofia (Rudy Rodriguez), Don’t Call Me Mary (Todd Pletcher), Lake Avenue (Bill Mott)

Possible: Estilo Talentoso (Juan Arriagada), Victim of Love (Todd Beattie)

$150K Bertram F. Bongard

Probable: Ava K’s Boy (Carlos Martin), Senbei (Clement), Shipsational (Edward Baker), Surprise Boss (Juan Vazquez), Whittington Park (Brad Cox)

NYRA Press Office

Photo: Step Dancer stretching it out on the turf in the New York Stallion Series Stakes July 28 at Saratoga. (NYRA/Coglianese)

@jonathanstettin great pick!

Justin Golden @justin181174 View testimonials