ELMONT, N.Y. -- Todd Pletcher won't have Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches to run, but he'll still have a pretty strong hand to play in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.
That hand was strengthened Sunday when the Pletcher-trained duo of Unbridled Belle and Indian Vale were heads apart while finishing first and second in the Grade 1 $600,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to 11-10 favorite Ginger Punch in third.
Balance, Mo Cuishle, Miss Shop, and Ice Cool Kitty completed the order of finish.
As part of the Breeders' Cup's "Win and You're In" format, Unbridled Belle earned an automatic berth into the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27. The victory was the first significant one away from Delaware Park and around one turn for Unbridled Belle, who had been 3 for 4 at Delaware and 1 for 9 elsewhere.
In addition to Unbridled Belle and Indian Vale, Pletcher will also have multiple Grade 1 winner Octave for the Distaff.
Pletcher was concerned about the one-turn configuration of the Beldame for both Unbridled Belle and Indian Vale, who was 6-for-6 at 1 1/8 miles but with all of those races coming around two turns.
"Neither one of them had a great deal of success around one turn," Pletcher said. "Obviously, Unbridled Belle is a better filly this year than she was last year."
Unbridled Belle, under Ramon Dominguez, settled into fourth position while her stablemate had to battle longshot Ice Cool Kitty on the front end. Ginger Punch, who raced alongside Unbridled Belle made an early move on the leaders and Unbridled Belle followed her.
In the stretch, Dominguez guided Unbridled Belle to the outside of Ginger Punch and Indian Vale and she was able to wear down Indian Vale in the stretch while Ginger Punch faded. Unbridled Belle, a 4-year-old daughter of Broken Vow owned by Team Valor Stables, covered the 1 1/8 miles ion 1:48.63 and returned $15.40 to win.
"My only concern was around the three-eighths pole; she was feeling so good I was worried she would clip heels," Dominguez said. "I was able to get outside and she was able to get her momentum going again."
John Velazquez, the rider of Indian Vale, felt that Mike Luzzi, aboard Ice Cool Kitty, was riding his filly through the early part of the race.
"My horse ran a huge race," Velazquez said. "I just got caught up in a duel and from the half-mile to the quarter pole I had to run hard just to stay where I was."
Rafael Bejarano, the rider of Ginger Punch, said his filly may have felt the effects of running back so quick after her victory in the Ruffian 22 days ago.
"This time my horse didn't show me too much," he said. "It was too close to the last race. She tried really hard, but she was a little bit tired."
Belmont Park, 9th Race - September 30, 2007