ELMONT, N.Y. – Mark T. Anderson’s New York-bred Sterling Silver will look to make the grade in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride for sophomore fillies sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs over the main track at Belmont Park.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, Sterling Silver enters from a professional 4 1/4-length victory in the restricted Bouwerie on May 30 over Big Sandy with returning rider Trevor McCarthy in the irons. The daughter of Cupid tracked in fourth behind pacesetter November Rein before going three-to-four wide in the turn and coming away with a 2 1/2-length lead. She continued to find more down the lane and completed the seven furlongs in 1:24.41.
The win came on the heels of two off-the-board efforts against open company, finishing fifth in both the Busher Invitational in March at Aqueduct and the Grade 1 Ashland going around two turns on April 8 at Keeneland.
“She’s coming off a good win in her last start, so hopefully we can see another good performance this weekend,” said Albertrani. “We tried to stretch her out two turns and maybe it wasn’t the right distance for her. So, putting her back in with her with New York-breds and cutting back in distance was probably the main thing.”
Sterling Silver won her sophomore debut in January going the Victory Ride distance in the Franklin Square against fellow state-breds at the Big A.
Albertrani said turning back a half-furlong from her last outing should be no problem for her.
“She certainly performed well last time and she seems like she’s been training as well as the last race coming into the next one. So, we’re hoping for a good performance,” Albertrani said. “I don’t think the cutback will make too much of a difference. That’s kind of in her range, so we’re looking forward to it.”
A $13,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase, Sterling Silver won her debut at in November at Aqueduct as the first and only start of her juvenile season. She was bred in the Empire State by Mallory Mort and Karen Mort.
McCarthy will try to engineer another winning ride from the outermost post 7.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez hopes that stakes-winning Hot Peppers can use the Victory Ride as a springboard to the seven-furlong Grade 1 Longines Test on August 6 at Saratoga Race Course for owners Michael Dubb and Michael Caruso.
A Florida-bred daughter of Khozan, Hot Peppers won three of her first five starts for trainer Ronald Spatz in Florida, including a trio of sprint victories at Gulfstream Park in January and February. After finishing a distant ninth in the seven-furlong Sophomore Fillies in March at Tampa Bay Downs for her stakes debut, Hot Peppers was privately purchased by her current connections and sent to Rodriguez in New York.
Hot Peppers proved to be an astute buy, making easy work of the six-furlong Jersey Girl on June 12 in her first outing for Rodriguez. Luis Saez sent the bay filly to the lead and never looked back as she widened margins throughout to cross the wire 6 3/4-lengths the best.
“With the way she was training in the morning, I thought she would run big,” said Rodriguez. “But the way she did it was extra impressive for sure.”
Rodriguez said Hot Peppers has continued to train forwardly since her dominating Jersey Girl performance.
“She’s been doing good. I kind of babied her because the race came up a little quick, but she seems good,” said Rodriguez. “In a perfect world, we’d like to wait until the Test, but it’s way too long for that. If she performs the way we expect, the Test is the goal.”
Hot Peppers will be trying the 6 1/2-furlong distance for the first time. Her lone start beyond six furlongs was her off-the-board run in the Sophomore Fillies.
“That’s the thing we’ve got to find out,” Rodriguez said of the added distance. “The other day [in the Jersey Girl], she seemed pretty comfortable. But an extra sixteenth of a mile makes a difference. This is going to be a test for us to find out if she wants to go another. She’s very quick and we’re going to just take it from there.”
Saez gets the call again from post 6.
Brad King, Stan Kirby and Suzanne Kirby’s Texas-shipper Smash Ticket will make her second outing in graded company after she dazzled in a second-level allowance on May 30 at Lone Star Park for trainer Todd Fincher. The dark bay Midnight Lute filly easily took down the 5 1/2-furlong sprint by 11 lengths to earn a field-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure under Richard Eramia.
The win came one start after she earned a graded placing in the Grade 2 Sorrento in August at Del Mar with Umberto Rispoli in the irons, finishing a closing third behind the victorious Elm Drive and Grade 1-winner Eda. She finished second on debut last June to Wicked Halo, who went on to win the Grade 2 Adirondack that summer at Saratoga and the Tepin on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Hall of Famer Mike Smith has the call from post 2.
Marylou Whitney Stables’ homebred Pretty Birdie has finished a good second in her last two outings, defeated less than three lengths in both the Grade 2 Eight Belles on May 6 at Churchill Downs behind subsequent Grade 1 Acorn winner Matareya, and the Leslie’s Lady behind next-out stakes winner Wicked Halo.
The Norm Casse trainee won the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga last year before finishing last-of-9 in the Grade 1 Spinaway in September to finish off her juvenile season. She returned in February with a fifth in the six-furlong Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park before taking the Purple Martin over the same surface and distance in March.
Joel Rosario will ride the daughter of Bird Song for the first time from post 5.
The undefeated Half Is Enough will attempt to keep her perfect record intact in her stakes debut for trainer Michael Trombetta. Owned by Ironhorse Racing Stable, the Frosted bay has won her three starts by more than a combined 14 lengths, including a 7 1/4-length romp on debut in September at Monmouth Park.
She followed with a gritty neck score after a slow start in a first-level allowance over muddy and sealed going in May at Laurel Park before her latest allowance victory by 6 3/4-lengths on June 4 at Delaware Park.
Half Is Enough, who will be racing beyond six furlongs for the first time, will be piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 3.
Completing the field are Cash is King and LC Racing’s Stand Up Comic [post 1, Frankie Pennington] for trainer Butch Reid, Jr and Gayla Rankin’s Grade 3-placed Happy Soul [post 4, John Velazquez] for trainer Wesley Ward.
The Victory Ride is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s loaded 11-race Stars and Stripes Racing Festival card, which features the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban Handicap in Race 4; the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational in Race 7; and the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational in Race 9. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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By Mary Eddy/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Sterling Silver victorious in the Bouwerie Stakes at Belmont Park, May 30th, 2022 (Janet Garaguso)