ELMONT, N.Y. – Marylou Whitney Stables’ homebred Pretty Birdie looms large in a field of seven fillies set for the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride on Saturday at Belmont Park. She is installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 6 1/2-furlong test after two runner-up efforts in stakes company for trainer Norm Casse.
A daughter of Bird Song, Pretty Birdie arrives from a second-place finish to graded stakes-winner Wicked Halo in the Leslie’s Lady on June 12 at Churchill Downs where she was challenged for the lead throughout by the eventual winner and lost the battle to the wire by 2 3/4 lengths. The effort came on the heels of another runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Eight Belles to subsequent Grade 1 Acorn winner Matareya on May 6 over the same surface and distance.
“She’s doing good. We kind of were trying to teach her how to relax a little and unfortunately it got us beat last race,” said Casse. “We’ve switched things up and we’ve trained her like a quick horse – which she is – into this race. We’re hoping that she’s much sharper for this one.”
The gray filly got off to a strong start last year with a pair of wins in her first two outings, graduating on debut in June at Churchill Downs before stepping up in class to take the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga Race Course by two lengths. She closed out her juvenile year with an off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Spinaway. Pretty Birdie returned as a sophomore in February at Oaklawn Park, finishing a distant fifth in the Dixie Belle before a return to form with a 2 3/4-length score in the Purple Martin on March 26 en route to her two recent runner-up efforts.
“She’s a very honest filly. What’s cool about her is that she’s obviously very fast, but her temperament is the complete opposite,” said Casse. “She’s really chill and relaxed. In the paddock, it will seem like she’s really dull and maybe not into it, but she’s the complete opposite when she gets into the gate. She’s kept very good company her entire career, so we’ve been very proud of her.”
Pretty Birdie will cut back a half-furlong in the Victory Ride after making her last two outings over seven furlongs, something Casse said he is cautiously optimistic about.
“Preferably, if the race was three-quarters [of a mile], we’d be more confident,” said Casse. “You would think six and a half is within our reach.”
Joel Rosario, who has piloted the speedy Jackie’s Warrior to four Grade 1 victories, will get a leg up on Pretty Birdie for the first time. Casse said he is hopeful Rosario can use the same commanding tactics as he does on the 2021 Champion Male Sprinter to guide Pretty Birdie to the winner’s circle.
“I think the way I see it playing out is that she always breaks two or three lengths [the best] right out of the gate. Joel will just rush her out of there and play catch me if you can,” said Casse. “His instructions will be to ride her like Jackie’s Warrior. If he can ride her like he rides him, then we’ll be happy. It’s an exciting race to be a part of and we’re happy to be part of a big day there at NYRA.”
Casse enjoyed stakes success at the Belmont spring/summer meet last month when John Oxley’s promising juvenile filly Devious Dame won the Astoria in style to remain undefeated through two starts. A daughter of freshman sire Girvin, Devious Dame was a comfortable 5 1/4-length winner under Rosario after closing from fourth-of-5 and easing up before the wire.
Devious Dame worked a half-mile in 49 seconds flat over the Churchill Downs main track Friday morning, her first work back in preparation for the Grade 3, $200,000 Adirondack going 6 1/2 furlongs on August 7 at Saratoga.
“She’s doing really well and had her first workout since the Astoria this morning; an easy half in 49,” said Casse. “The main thing that I like about her is that while we are lucky and fortunate enough that she’s been quick enough to win sprint races, I know that her game going forward is going to be going longer because she moves and acts like a two-turn horse.
“That’s what we’re most excited about is when we get the opportunity to run her there,” Casse added. “Those races don’t come up for 2-year-olds until later on, so we just have to be diligent about the race selection going into the fall. That’s why we’re waiting until the six-and-a-half Adirondack.”
Casse said the main objective for Devious Dame is a start in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at Keeneland, a goal that could be reached with good efforts in the Grade 1 Spinaway on September 4 at Saratoga or Grade 1 Alcibiades on October 7 at Keeneland.
“We’re just going race to race with her, and obviously we’d like to think she’s a Breeders’ Cup horse,” said Casse. “To us, the best way to get there and be able to run well is to run in the Alcibiades on opening day at Keeneland’s fall meet. We’ll have to decide after the Adirondack if the best way to do that is by going in the Spinaway or just skipping it. We just have to keep her sound and happy.”
Casse will look forward to more graded stakes success this summer with Marylou Whitney Stables’ homebred Super Quick after a respectable second-place finish behind multiple Grade 1-winner Shedaresthedevil in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis on July 2 at Churchill Downs.
A bay Super Saver filly, Super Quick made herself known with an eye-popping 14 1/4-length romp in the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course, setting the pace and widening her advantage at every point of call to score her first graded stakes win. That effort came on the heels of a good third behind the reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare in April at Keeneland.
Casse said he was proud of the Fleur de Lis effort from Super Quick, who will now turn her focus to the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch on August 6 at Del Mar rather than the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on the August 27 Travers undercard at Saratoga.
“We’re very excited about her. We felt like she lost nothing in defeat, and she got beat by a horse that’s very good, and in particular, very good at Churchill,” said Casse. “We’d like to think that she’s a Breeders’ Cup filly as well. The idea with her is to probably run in the Clement Hirsh because we’d like to avoid the heavy hitters in the race on Travers Day at Saratoga.”
Out of the Cape Town mare Quick Town, Super Quick is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes-placed stakes winner Viva Majorca and the stakes-placed mare Quick Quick Quick.
NYRA Press Office
Photo Pretty Birdie taking her first graded stakes in the Schuylerville at Saratoga on July 15, 2021. (Chelsea Durand)