ELMONT, N.Y. – Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game drew a field of five talented older fillies and mares to tackle one mile over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.
The Longines Just a Game, named in honor of Peter Brant’s 1980 Champion Female Turf Horse, has been won by Breeders’ Cup winners Tepin, Stephanie’s Kitten, Perfect Sting, Rushing Fall, Intercontinental, Newspaperofrecord and Tapitsfly.
A winner of top-flight races around the world, including the 2020 Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and a pair of Breeders’ Cups, Brant will be represented by a trio of capable Chad Brown trainees in search of his first Just a Game score.
Leading the charge is 6-year-old dual Grade 1 winner Regal Glory, a daughter of Animal Kingdom, who has won six of her past eight races, with her worst effort being a fourth in this race last year behind Godolphin’s Althiqa. She exits consecutive victories in the Grade 1 Matriarch in November at Del Mar; the Grade 3 Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf in January at Gulfstream Park; and the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April at Keeneland. Regal Glory will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 2.
“She’s training super and you can see from her races that she’s never been better,” Brown said. “She has exceeded all expectations this season. She’s the top turf mare in the country until proven otherwise. It would be great to get it done for Peter.”
Speak of the Devil, a $2.2 million Arqana December Breeding Stock Sale graduate, was an emphatic winner of her stateside bow in the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on May 7 at Churchill Downs, out-kicking stablemate In Italian by 2 3/4-lengths in the process.
A five-time winner in 14 starts in France prior to joining Brown, she will be looking for her first top-level victory, but has gone quite close before. Last August, she was a head third in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville and in June 2020 she was a nose second in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouiches [French 1000 Guineas] – both over one mile. Flavien Prat has the return call from post 3.
In Italian has yet to finish out of the exacta in five starts, including a victory in Grade 3 Honey Fox in March at Gulfstream. The daughter of Dubawi will be ridden once again by Irad Ortiz Jr., breaking from post 4.
“Speak of the Devil has come out of her race well and all signs say that she’s a mare who is moving forward,” Brown said. “With In Italian, I think it depends on the ground for her. She’s training well.”
Gary Barber and Team Valor International’s Wakanaka was a distant third in the aforementioned Churchill Distaff Turf Mile and second in the Honey Fox.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 4-year-old daughter of Power was a classic winner in Italy, landing the Group 3 Premio Regina Elena [Italian 1000 Guineas] in April 2021. Joel Rosario rides from the outermost post 5.
“I think she is training better than ever,” said Barry Irwin, principal of Team Valor. “She will appreciate a return to racing around one turn.”
William Sims’ Leggs Galore ships east for trainer Phil D’Amato on the strength of three consecutive stakes victories, including the Grade 2 Buena Vista on March 5 at Santa Anita over this distance. She will be ridden by Ricardo Gonzalez from the inside post.
The Just a Game is slated as Race 4 on Saturday’s 13-race card which features a first post of 11:20 a.m. Eastern with the Belmont Stakes slated as Race 11 at 6:44 p.m.
National television coverage of Belmont Stakes Day will begin on FS2, where America’s Day at the Races will air from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. before coverage shifts to CNBC from 3 to 5 p.m. and NBC from 5 to 7p.m. America’s Day at the Races will then return to FS2 from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
Belmont Press Release
Photo: Regal Glory (CD Photo)