ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Chad Brown will bring a strong hand of cards to the table when he saddles turf champion Uni, Grade 1-winner Newspaperofrecord and two-time graded stakes winner Regal Glory in pursuit of a fourth consecutive win in the 27th running of Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Just a Game over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.
The one-mile event for fillies and mares is one of four graded stakes events carded for Saturday afternoon’s action packed program at beautiful Belmont Park, which also features the Grade 2, $250,000 New York at 1 ¼ miles on Belmont Park’s inner turf; the Grade 2, $150,000 True North, for 4-year-olds and up going 6 ½ furlongs, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Vagrancy for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up contesting at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.
Brown has saddled Antonoe (2017), A Raving Beauty (2018) and Rushing Fall (2019) to victory in the past three editions of the Just a Game, which is named in honor of Peter Brant’s six-time graded stakes winning filly who was named Champion Grass Mare in 1980.
Defending Champion Turf Mare Uni will make her 2020 debut in the Just a Game, having not raced since taking last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita, where she became the sixth female to score a win in the race.
Known for her devastating late kick, the 6-year-old daughter of More Than Ready made up 11 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup, where she broke sharply, was taken back in the early stages and put her sweeping turn of foot on display around the far turn with a five-wide move and stormed to victory by 1 ½ lengths. The impressive triumph registered a career-best 106 Beyer and was the fourth triple-digit speed figure recorded by the talented chestnut mare.
Uni, whose last eight starts took place at the Just a Game’s distance, is a three-time Grade 1-winner with all three victories at such caliber taking place over different surfaces. Following a win in the Grade 1 Matriarch in December 2018 at Del Mar, where she made up 19 lengths, Uni secured a victory in the Grade 1 First Lady in October at Keeneland en route to her Breeders’ Cup Mile triumph.
“She’s doing well,” Brown said. “There’s a little uncertainty with the layoff, but she seems to be training well. She has a great turn of foot and we’ll just see how it plays out.”
Uni began her career in France for former conditioner Fabrice Chappet and has placed in 11 of her 12 starts in the United States for Brown.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Robert LaPenta, Sol Kumin’s Head of Plains Partners and Michael Caruso’s Bethlehem Stables, Uni has won at six different tracks in the United States and boasts the highest amount of lifetime earnings in the field with $2,347,880.
Uni is bred in Great Britain by Haras D’Etreham and is out of the Dansili broodmare Unaided.
Jockey Joel Rosario has been aboard for her last six outings and will pilot once more from post 6.
Owned by Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables, Newspaperofrecord arrives at the Just a Game off a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 6 over the Widener turf, where she recorded swift fractions but still had enough left in the tank to draw off to a four-length victory recording a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure.
The 4-year-old daughter of Lope de Vega made amends from a disappointing 3-year-old campaign where she went winless in three starts. Newspaperofrecord began her career with an unscathed 2-year-old campaign, which included victories in a Saratoga turf maiden event, the Grade 2 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs by a combined 20 lengths.
“She’s doing fine,” Brown said. “She seems very settled in the mornings. She went fast fractions last time, which wasn’t really what I wanted, but she doesn’t need to do that. She’s been pretty relaxed and settled.”
Favored in all seven of her career starts, Newspaperofrecord boasts a 7-4-2-0 record, with all four of her victories taking place over yielding turf courses.
Bred in Ireland by Times of Wigan, Newspaperofrecord is out of the Holy Roman Emperor broodmare Sunday Times.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. has been aboard for all of her starts and will return to the irons from post 4.
Rounding out the Brown threesome is Paul Pompa, Jr.’s dual graded stakes-winner Regal Glory. The 4-year-old daughter of Animal Kingdom was second to Newspaperofrecord in the Intercontinental last out in her first start of the year. Her summer at Saratoga last year was a prosperous one as she took the Grade 3 Lake George over stablemates Blowout and Dogtag and followed up with a win in the Grade 2 Lake Placid over good ground, where she dead-heated for victory alongside Varenka.
Regal Glory has never finished worse than second in eight of her nine career starts. Her lone off the board effort was when she stretched out to a mile and an eighth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland finishing sixth beaten four lengths to stable mate Cambier Parc.
“A mile is a good distance for her. It’s a big step up for her, but hopefully can grab a piece of it,” Brown said.
A Kentucky homebred, Regal Glory is out of the dual turf graded stakes winning More Than Ready broodmare Mary’s Follies who also produced multiple graded stakes-winner Night Prowler and unbeaten Japanese group stakes winner Café Pharoah.
Breaking from post 5, Regal Glory will be ridden by Manny Franco.
Looking to make amends after three losses in 2020 is Gary Barber’s two-time Grade 1-winner Got Stormy who will attempt to put her best foot forward for trainer Mark Casse, who saddled 2015 Champion Turf Female Tepin to victory in the Just a Game five years ago.
The daughter of Get Stormy was a hard-fought second to Uni in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and recorded six straight triple-digit speed figures last season, including a 109 from her victory in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga against males.
The chestnut mare arrives off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont Park, which came after finishing second beaten a neck in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.
Jockey Luis Saez will be aboard Got Stormy from post 2.
Trainer Brad Cox sends out last year’s runner-up Beau Recall who will try to move forward off a ninth-place finish in the Grade 3 Mint Julep on May 30 at Churchill Downs.
The daughter of Sir Prancealot won the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar last season.
Jockey Jose Ortiz will be aboard from post 1.
Rounding out the field are Valedictorian [post 3, Jose Lezcano] and Zofelle [post 7, Javier Castellano].
Slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which offers a first post of 1:15 p.m. Eastern, the Easy Goer will feature on America’s Day at the Races, produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports, and airing live on Fox Sports and MSG+. Free Equibase-provided past performances are available for races that are part of the America’s Day at the Races broadcast and can be accessed at https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the best way to bet the 2020 Belmont Park spring/summer meet. Available to customers across the United States, NYRA Bets allows horseplayers to watch and wager on racing from tracks around the world at any time. The NYRA Bets app is available for download for iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Uni. Credit: NYRA/Coglianese