ELMONT, N.Y. – Starlight Racing and Glen Hill Farm’s Grade 2-winner Jouster will return to the one-mile distance for the first time since March in Sunday’s $100,000 Perfect Sting for older fillies and mares over the Widener turf at Belmont Park.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Jouster arrives from a good third-place finish in the Grade 3 Intercontinental sprinting six furlongs on June 10 at Belmont. Ridden by Flavien Prat, the 4-year-old daughter of Noble Mission stalked the pace in seventh and needed running room as she was angled wide by Prat at the top of the stretch. Jouster had to angle out even further at the sixteenth pole and ran out of ground as she got into gear, holding onto show honors by a head and nosed out of second by Star Devine.
“She’s doing good. We liked her last race, and we wish it was just a tick further,” said Pletcher. “She had to wait for a seam a little bit and once she got clear, she was closing well and ran out of ground.”
Jouster graduated impressively with an 8 3/4-length romp at third asking in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight last January at Gulfstream Park. She won a first-level allowance that February and finished a close second one month later in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs en route to her lone graded score in the Grade 2 Appalachian going the Perfect Sting distance in April 2021 at Keeneland.
Jouster has since finished off-the-board in a trio of graded starts, her best effort of the three a fourth-place finish three lengths behind stablemate Con Lima in the Grade 3 Wonder Again going nine furlongs over good Belmont turf last June. She was on the bench for eight months after a distant eighth in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga Race Course and returned in March with an even fifth-place finish in the one-mile Grade 3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream. Her other start this year was a sixth in Keeneland’s 5 1/2-furlong Giant’s Causeway in April.
“We’ll try stretching her back out to the mile and see how she is,” said Pletcher. “She seems like she’s gotten a little more relaxed and she finished up strongly [last time].”
Jouster will emerge from the inside post with Luis Saez in the irons.
John D. Gunther and Tanya Gunther’s Love and Thunder (IRE) will look to improve off a last-out optional claiming victory and secure the first stakes win of her career for trainer Chad Brown. A 5-year-old daughter of Siyouni, the Irish-bred Love and Thunder was a professional 1 1/2-length optional-claiming winner on May 15 going one-mile at Belmont in her first start off a six-month layoff.
Originally trained in France by Andre Fabre for her November 2019 debut, Love and Thunder moved to the yard of John Gosden for three starts in England, including an allowance victory, before joining Brown in April 2021.
Her first four stateside starts were all close runner-up efforts in first-level allowances at NYRA before finally coming out on top by 4 3/4 lengths in a seven-furlong contest in October at Belmont. She followed with an even fifth-place effort in the Grade 3 Nobel Damsel before closing out the year in November with a game third in the Autumn Days, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Change of Control.
Flavien Prat retains the mount from post 5.
Trainer Christophe Clement will send out Messidor (IRE) for her American stakes debut off a gutsy second-level allowance score last out on June 10 sprinting seven furlongs at Belmont. Owned by Blue Devil Racing Stable, the Vadamos filly closed from ninth-of-10 under Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano to nail Zainalarab by a half-length in a final time of 1:20.11.
Messidor earned a stakes placing in her native Ireland last March when third in the Patton going one-mile over the synthetic at Dundalk. A four-time winner from 14 starts, her other American win was a first-level allowance victory in November at Aqueduct.
Castellano has the call again from post 6.
Steve Feiger’s Kentucky homebred Flower Point will look to regroup for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey after an even ninth-place finish in the Intercontinental, beaten just 4 1/2 lengths after swinging five-wide in the turn under Jose Lezcano.
The 6-year-old Point of Entry mare is winless in her three starts this year after closing out her 2021 campaign with a win in Aqueduct’s Forever Together by a neck over Giacosa in November. Her 6-year-old debut was a tenacious effort in the Plenty of Grace in April at the Big A where she was headed out of place honors by Technical Analysis just a half-length behind the victorious Plum Ali. She followed with a non-threatening fifth in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on Kentucky Derby Day en route to her run in the Intercontinental.
Flower Point kicked off her career on the West Coast with trainer John Sadler, who conditioned her to a debut maiden score sprinting five furlongs at Santa Anita Park before earning her first victory against winners six starts later. She moved east to McGaughey’s stable in April 2021 and has earned three wins since.
Lezcano retains the mount from post 3.
Teresa Palmer and David J. Palmer’s Cheermeister will make her first start in nearly two years for new trainer Arnaud Delacour. A dark bay Bodemeister mare, Cheermeister was last seen finishing seventh-of-10 in the Grade 2 San Clemente in July 2020 at Del Mar for trainer Armando De La Cerda. She was a dual Grade 3-winner earlier that year with back-to-back wins at Gulfstream in the Sweetest Chant and Herecomesthebride.
Cheermeister will be ridden from post 4 by Trevor McCarthy.
Completing the field is Robert Masiello’s Giggle Factory, who has won or been runner-up in her last five starts dating back to October 3. Trained by Tom Albertrani, Giggle Factory makes her stakes debut after a pair of allowance victories going 1 1/16 miles at Aqueduct and Belmont.
Dylan Davis has the mount from post 2.
The Perfect Sting, which is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s nine-race card, honors the Joseph Orseno-trained mare who won four graded stakes at Belmont, including the 1999 Grade 1 Garden City Breeders’ Cup Handicap. She earned Eclipse honors as 2000 Champion Turf Mare with victories in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Diana New York, and Just A Game that season. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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Photo: Jouster won in the G2 Appalachian Presented by Japan Racing Association April 2, 2021 at Keeneland. (Coady Photography)