Evvie Jets missed the win in the Grade 3 Athenia by a neck
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Robert Amendola’s Evvie Jets will look to make the grade in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel, a one-mile inner turf test for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and upward, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The 4-year-old Twirling Candy bay nearly gave trainer Mertkan Kantarmaci his first graded win in his first attempt with a pacesetting neck loss here to Love And Thunder last out on September 24 in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Athenia.
Evvie Jets, with returning pilot Eric Cancel up, set splits of 24.35 seconds and 51.10 over firm going in the Athenia, opening up a 2 1/2-length lead at the stretch call but could not hold off the rallying Chad Brown-trained favorite, who closed from last-of-5. Evvie Jets’ game runner-up effort garnered a career-best 91 Beyer Speed Figure.
The 31-year-old Kantarmaci, who has surpassed the $1 million mark in purse earnings in each season since 2019, said he was pleased with the effort from Evvie Jets in her stakes debut.
“She ran really good last time. She always runs well. We believe in her and she always gives everything,” said Kantarmaci, whose lone stakes win came with Turco Bravo in the 2019 Stud Muffin at Aqueduct. “It felt good to finish second in my first graded stake, finishing second to Chad Brown who is the top trainer right now on the grass. Hopefully, we are looking forward to a win this Saturday.”
Evvie Jets was haltered last September for $80,000 from her seventh career start where she lost by a nose in a one-mile optional-claiming tilt at Belmont Park. She has since posted a record of 8-2-4-0 for current connections, including one-mile turf scores in a November allowance with a stalking trip at the Big A and a closing effort in an optional-claimer in July at Belmont.
Evvie Jets missed the win in the Athenia by a neck.
Her lone off-the-board efforts for Kantarmaci came in an off-the-turf allowance in November at the Big A and a close fourth in her seasonal debut in May at Belmont in a turf allowance won by Love And Thunder.
“If you throw out the dirt race, in all of her races she has run well and been successful,” Kantarmaci said. “On the grass from a mile to a mile and an eighth, she is really good.”
Kantarmaci said Amendola brought the filly to his attention. A $75,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Evvie Jets is out of the Consolidator mare Natchez Trace, who is a half-sister to stakes-winner Perfectly Clear.
“Mr. Amendola liked her form and when I saw her, she was so muscled and so dappled when we claimed her last year. She’s a young horse and she was fresh,” explained Kantarmaci.
Kantarmaci said Evvie Jets is capable of any number of trips, but will leave strategy in the hands of Cancel, who has ridden the filly in each of her last six starts.
“She can do both on the lead, stalking or off the pace. It depends on the shape of the race,” Kantarmaci said. “Sometimes, she wants to be sharp and we can’t play too much with her. We don’t want her to be upset, so whatever she wants to do. She’s the same way in the morning.”
Cancel, who won the Grade 3 Matron with American Apple here earlier this month, retains the mount from post 3.
Plum Ali was second in the All Along at Pimlico in September.
Trainer Christophe Clement saddles a strong pair of contenders in Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Michael J. Caruso’s graded stakes winner Plum Ali [post 2, Manny Franco] and Blue Devil Racing Stable’s five-time winner Messidor (IRE) [post 4, Javier Castellano].
Clement shares the Noble Damsel win record of five with Chad Brown and will look to secure the feat outright by adding to past winners Khumba Mela , Bright Abundance , Rutherienne , Naples Bay  and Annecdote .
“They’re both doing great. I’m really excited to see both of them run. It’s a fun race,” Clement said.
Plum Ali, a 4-year-old First Samurai chestnut, boasts a record of 16-5-3-1 for purse earnings of $787,042. She won 3-of-4 starts as a 2-year-old in 2020, taking the Grade 2 Miss Grillo at Belmont ahead of a close fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland.
Plum Ali utilized a closing style in her first four starts last season, rallying from last-of-9 to finish second to Con Lima in her seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Wonder Again at Belmont. She closed out that campaign in November with a frontrunning score in the Winter Memories traveling 1 1/16-miles over good going at the Big A.
Plum Ali was off-the-board in her first two starts this year, finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Beaugay in May at Belmont and fourth in the Grade 2 Nassau in July at Woodbine.
But she showed renewed form when second in both of her most recent outings, dropped in class with stalking trips in the restricted one-mile Fasig-Tipton De La Rose at Saratoga Race Couse and the nine-furlong All Along last out on September 10 at Pimlico where she could not reel in gate-to-wire winner In a Hurry.
“I think she is doing very, very well in the fall,” Clement said. “I’m still puzzled why she got beat last time because she was training so well. She looked like she would win the race, but she was second.”
Messidor, a 4-year-old Vadamos bay, won a pair of races as a 2-year-old in her native Ireland for her former conditioner Joseph O’Brien. She was transferred to Clement’s care after finishing seventh in last year’s Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational and has since won a trio of turf starts against winners, taking a six-furlong sprint in November at the Big A, a seven-furlong sprint in June at Belmont and a one-mile tilt last out on July 27 at the Spa.
Clement said he has waited to find a spot for Messidor going one mile.
“She’s improving all along,” Clement said. “I think she’s ideally a seven-eighths to a mile horse. We either had to sprint her or run her at a mile and a sixteenth or eighth, and I didn’t want to [do either], so that’s the way it is.”
Sanford J. Goldfarb, Irwin Goldfarb and Nice Guys Stables’ graded stakes-placed Kept Waiting [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] scratched out of Sunday’s $150,000 Floral Park at six furlongs on the outer turf in favor of this spot.
“She seems like she would be [able to get the distance],” trainer Robert Falcone, Jr. said. “If there’s speed in the race, she can sit comfortably and be fine. She should be OK with the same closing kick, hopefully. We just have to hope for a little pace and hope she can get the mile.”
Kept Waiting enters from a rallying three-quarter length score in a six-furlong outer turf sprint on September 29 at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The 5-year-old New York-bred daughter of Broken Vow enjoyed a solid run of form at the Big A this winter, taking a six-furlong state-bred outer turf allowance by five lengths in December. She followed in February with a state-bred score in the Broadway over a sloppy and sealed main track, ahead of a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap in April contested on a fast main track.
The versatile Kept Waiting, bred by John Lauriello, has posted 4-of-6 wins on turf while banking $382,350 through a career ledger of 16-6-4-2.
Rounding out the field is Fano Racing’s stakes-winner Por Que No [post 5, Abner Adorno] for conditioner Tyler Servis. The 4-year-old Wicked Strong bay captured the 1 1/16-mile Boiling Springs last June at Monmouth Park to close out a solid run of form that saw her win 5-of-6 starts from January 2021.
Por Que No has finished off-the-board in each of her five starts since the Boiling Springs, entering from a prominent fourth in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claimer on August 31 at Colonial.
The Noble Damsel is slated as Race 3 on Saturday’s 10-race card, which also features the Grade 2, $300,000 Hill Prince in Race 7. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
NYRA Press Office
Photo of Mertkan Kantarmaci by NYRA/Coglianese