G1 Belmont Oaks runner-up Con Lima targets second leg of Turf Triple series

July 12, 2021

Malathaat and Country Grammer on the work tab

ELMONT, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher saddled Con Lima and Sainthood for formidable efforts in Saturday’s opening legs of the Turf Triple series with the former a front-running second in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks and the latter a close fifth in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Joseph Graffeo, Eric Nikolaus Del Toro and Troy Johnson’s Con Lima, who entered the Belmont Oaks from a prominent win in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Wonder Again, set a smart pace under Flavien Prat in the 10-furlong test over good going. The Commissioner filly opened up a 1 1/2-length lead at the stretch call and fought bravely to the wire, falling just a half-length short of the rallying Santa Barbara.

Pletcher said Con Lima will likely progress to the 1 3/16-mile Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational.

“She ran her heart out. It was a big effort from her,” said Pletcher. “She handled the distance fine and ran well enough to give her another shot.”

CHC and WinStar Farm’s Sainthood, a dark bay son of Mshawish, enjoyed a ground-saving trip under Joel Rosario in his turf debut in the Belmont Derby. 

Sitting just off a moderate pace, Sainthood progressed along the inside down the lane, but failed to make up the needed ground en route to a fifth-place finish, just 2 1/4-lengths back of the victorious Bolshoi Ballet.

“He ran well. He had a good trip but just couldn’t quite polish it off,” said Pletcher. “I thought he ran a respectable race.”

Pletcher said Sainthood, who graduated on the Fair Grounds dirt in February and won the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on the Turfway synthetic in March, could turn back in the one-mile Grade 2, $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on August 6 at the Spa.

“He’s versatile enough and proven he can run well on three different surfaces. It leaves us with a lot of different options,” said Pletcher. “We’ll see how he bounces out of it, but something like the Hall of Fame might make sense.”

Country Grammar in a July workout for the 2020 Travers at Saratoga. (Janet Garaguso)

WinStar Farm’s Country Grammer, last-out winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in May at Santa Anita, breezed a half-mile in 49.22 in company with Grade 3 Peter Pan-winner Promise Keeper on the dirt training track on Sunday.

Country Grammer is working towards a start in the nine-furlong Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 7 at the Spa, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“He’s an honest workhorse but the more we’re around him it seems he’s really good at just clicking off those 12s,” said Pletcher. “We’ll put a couple more good works into him and have him ready for the Whitney.”

Pletcher said Woodford Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm and Rock Ridge Racing’s Promise Keeper, a sophomore son of Curlin, will target either the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 31 at Saratoga or the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby on August 7 at Mountaineer.

Malathaat winning the 2020 Tempted on November 6 at Aqueduct. (NYRA/Coglianese)

Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat worked a half-mile in 49.96 on the dirt training track in company with Dynamic One on Saturday in preparation for the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies on July 24 at Saratoga

“She went great. I’m really pleased with the way she’s doing,” said Pletcher. “She worked well with a big, strong gallop out. We’ll probably have one breeze at Saratoga and she’ll be ready to go.”

Undefeated in five starts, Malathaat won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks last out on April 30 on the heels of a head score in the Grade 1 Ashland on April 3 at Keeneland. 

Out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, Malathaat has worked consistently with Dynamic One, runner-up in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino in April, who finished 18th last out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs.

“They’ve been workmates coming off similar schedules from the Oaks and Derby. They make good mates. She doesn’t have any trouble holding her own,” said Pletcher, who noted that Dynamic One is probable for the $120,000 Curlin on July 30 at Saratoga.

Pletcher said the connections had contemplated starting Malathaat against the boys in the 12-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in June, but that the filly has flourished with time between starts.

“We were strongly considering the Belmont, but my biggest concern was we had the two races back-to-back with the Ashland and the Oaks,” said Pletcher. “I was afraid a gut-wrenching mile and a half could set her back and it’s paid off. She’s gained some weight and trained very well. Hopefully, it sets her up for a good Saratoga. She’s pretty special. We’re blessed to have her. You don’t come across many like her.”

Pletcher said if all goes well in the CCA Oaks, a start in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 21 is likely.

Pletcher will saddle a pair of Shadwell Stable homebreds in Ajaaweed and Arham in a nine-furlong allowance event on the main track on Thursday, Opening Day of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course.

Slated for Race 7 on the 10-race card, Ajaaweed will exit post 12 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, while Arham will leave from post 4 under Luis Saez.

The multiple graded stakes placed Ajaaweed worked a bullet half-mile over the Belmont turf in June, but Pletcher said he preferred to re-group on the main track after the colt’s off-the-board effort last out in the Grade 2 Brooklyn.

“It didn’t seem to me like he relished the turf even though the time seemed good,” said Pletcher. “He was kind of all-in I thought, so we’ll give him another shot on the dirt and see how it goes. Dropping back into an allowance race should help him. I’m not crazy about the 12 post, but we’ll do the best we can with it.”

Arham, a 4-year-old son of Union Rags, matched a career-best 91 Beyer last out with a runner-up effort in a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance on June 19 at Belmont. He added blinkers for a bullet half-mile breeze in 48.62 on July 8 on the Belmont dirt training track.

“The horse is doing really well,” said Pletcher. “His last race was good and we’re adding blinkers because he seemed a little unfocused. I thought he worked well with the blinkers and I expect him to take a step forward.”

NYRA Press Office

Top Photo: Con Lima winning the Wonder Again at Belmont June 3, 2021. (Chelsea Durand)

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