Two servings of Pumpkin Pie set for Sunday as sprint stakes runs in two divisions

October 29, 2021

ELMONT, N.Y. — There will be proverbial second helpings of pie for Sunday’s nine-race card at Belmont Park, with the $100,000 Pumpkin Pie split into two divisions for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up competing at seven furlongs on the main track.

The first division, slated for Race 6, will see Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ multiple graded stakes-winner Victim of Love return off a nearly five-month layoff to headline a seven-horse field.

Victim of Love, who notched a win in the Grade 3 Vagrancy for a second consecutive year with a 2 1/4-length victory in the 6 1/2-furlong contest over a fast Big Sandy track on May 8, last raced when running fifth in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses on June 4 over a sloppy and sealed Belmont track.

Trainer Todd Beattie said the 5-year-old Speightstown mare, who has posted a 3-2-1 mark in eight starts since 2020, has done well with ample rest, including the Vagrancy, which she captured off a three-month respite.

Victim of Love returned to the work tab at Penn National in late August and has posted six official workouts over the main track in Grantville, Pennsylvania since, including a bullet five-furlong breeze in 1:01.50 on Saturday.

“If you look at the form, she’s done real well off layoffs, so I feel really good about it. She’s doing really well,” Beattie said. “She’s had solid works the past couple of weeks and I’m optimistic.

“She’s an older mare and not a spring chicken any more, but she’s doing everything right behind the scenes,” he added. “She’s filled back up as far as putting the weight back on. She was getting a little lean on me, but she looks really good now and she’s acting good, too.”

Victim of Love has tallied a career record of 6-3-3 in 19 starts and boasts field-high earnings of $417,199. She will have the services of Joel Rosario from the inside post in looking to win for the third time in four Belmont starts.

“I think she really likes Belmont and that surface with the big oval, which kind of surprised me with a small filly,” Beattie said with a laugh. “She’s shown she gets along with the surface good.”

Wise Racing’s Union Maiden will make her stakes debut for Belmont fall meet-leading trainer Chad Brown, stepping up in class following a 2 3/4-length victory against optional claimers going the Pumpkin Pie distance on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course.

The 4-year-old Union Rags filly earned a personal-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure for that win – her lone start of 2021 and first off a nine-month break – and will elevate in class in her first career Belmont start.

Union Maiden [Luis Saez, post 6], who was purchased for $425,000 at the 2019 OBS March Sale of 2-year-olds in Training, went 2-0-2 in seven starts as a sophomore in 2020.

“We’re giving it a try to see if she can step up,” said Brown, who could earn his 10th consecutive Belmont fall training title if he maintains his lead at the end of the current meet which runs through Closing Day November 7. “I think she’ll be just fine here.” 

Brown will also saddle Juddmonte’s Starfront, who won her debut in October 2020 but did not race again until September 30 at Belmont, finishing second in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint. Jose Ortiz will ride from post 4.

Carl Pollard’s Aunt Kat earned black type last out in her first stakes appearance, finishing second, a length back to Bayerness, in the Shine Again at seven furlongs on August 4 at the Spa.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Aunt Kat earned her spot against stakes competition by tallying three consecutive wins, starting with a maiden-breaking 9 3/4-length score at third asking in March at Aqueduct Racetrack before registering back-to-back victories at Belmont, earning a 96 Beyer for her 5 3/4-length triumph going 6 1/2 furlongs in April.

After making just one start before her 4-year-old campaign – running seventh in her debut last December at the Big A, Aunt Kat is 3-1-0 in five starts this year. The $410,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale will look to go 3-for-3 at Belmont, drawing post 2 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.

Truth Hurts, who will be returning to Belmont for the first time since winning the off-the-turf Perfect Sting by 5 3/4 lengths on July 3. Trainer and co-owner Chad Summers ran the 4-year-old daughter of Tonalist in two graded stakes during the summer meet at Saratoga, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss going six furlongs on July 28 and sixth in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Ballerina on Runhappy Travers Day August 28.

Truth Hurts will have the services of Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 5.

Never Enough Time, who won back-to-back stakes in 2020 in capturing the Alma North at Laurel and the Skipat at Pimlico for trainer Michael Trombetta, has been close to securing her first stakes win as a 5-year-old, running second in the Seeking the Pearl in August at Colonial Downs and third last out in the Weathervane on September 18 at Laurel Park.

Manny Franco drew the assignment from the outside post.

Saul Kupferberg’s Honor Way, fifth in the Shine Again for trainer Charlton Baker, will depart from post 3 with Eric Cancel aboard.

The second division, carded as Race 8, will see Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Lady Rocket look to build on her ultra-consistent 4-year-old year.

Trained by reigning Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Brad Cox, Lady Rocket is 2-3-1 in six starts this year, including a victory in the Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon in August at Charles Town before running second to Bella Sofia in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom on September 26 at Belmont.

Ortiz, Jr., aboard for that effort over Big Sandy, will have the return call from post 7 in the eight-horse field.

Godolphin homebred Lake Avenue will rematch against Lady Rocket after running third in the Gallant Bloom. The Mott trainee has been competitive in high-level stakes races this year, posting three consecutive runner-up efforts in graded efforts, starting with the Bed o’ Roses where she finished a neck back to the winner.

Lake Avenue again came within a neck of earning a winner’s circle trip in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss before finishing second again, this time to Gamine, in the Grade 1 Ballerina on Runhappy Travers Day August 28. The 4-year-old daughter of Tapit earned her first triple-digit Beyer number for that effort, racking up a 101. Alvarado, aboard for her last three second-place finishes, will again ride, drawing the outside post.

Regal Retort, conditioned by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, made her stakes bow in her 15th career start last out, running third in the five-horse Roamin Rachel on September 6 at Parx. Before making the step up, the 5-year-old Jimmy Creed mare had won four of her 14 races, including a victory by a neck over Finding Fame in a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming contest on July 29 at Saratoga.

Owned by David Charlton, MarchFore Thoroughbreds and Bradley Thoroughbreds, Regal Retort will have Jose Lezcano on the call from post 5.

Brown will be well-represented in this division as well, sending out Three Chimneys Farm’s Always Carina, who will be competing at Belmont for the first time since running second to Zaajel in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 26.

The Malibu Moon sophomore is entering off consecutive Grade 1 appearances, running fourth in the Test on August 7 at Saratoga and fifth in the Cotillion in September at Parx. Ortiz will ride from the inside post.

The Elkstone Group’s Don’t Call Me Mary, fourth in the Gallant Bloom for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, will be looking for her second stakes win in three starts after winning the Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial in August at Parx. Saez will be aboard from post 6.

Rounding out the field is Piedi Bianchi, a back-to-back stakes winner with a score in the Smart N Fancy on the Saratoga turf in August before winning the Cardinal on October 6 over Indiana Grand Race Course’s main track [post 3, Hall of Famer Javier Castellano]; the Baker-trained Glass Ceiling [post 2, Dylan Davis] and Easy to Bless, trained by James Ferraro [post 4, Ruben Silvera].

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