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Caroline Thomas (center) wins the 2013 Lake Placid at Saratoga. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

The Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes brings together a field of 10 fillies and mares at Belmont Park, including three who are entered to run only if the race is switched from the turf to the main track.

Of the seven entrants that can run if the race remains on turf as scheduled, only one of the group has won so far in 2014 and that one, Modernstone, earned her win in England on an all-weather surface. In terms of having run against the best competition, recent Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes third-place finisher Abaco is the first to mention, having won the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap last fall. Recent Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes third-place finisher Caroline Thomas won the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes on turf at Saratoga last August and could be rounding back to winning form.

Another with credentials to succeed is Fitful Skies, who finished second in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes in her North American debut last October and who is making her second start following a six-month rest. Modernstone makes her U.S. debut and has been no worse than second in her last five races, including the aforementioned victory in the United Kingdom, which came in the UK Stakes in January. If the race is moved to main track, two of the three horses who are entered for the main-track only, Belle Gallantey and Lady Cohiba, make up the main contention as both enter the race off recent wins.

Fitful Skies has won at this 1 3/8 miles turf trip, which could be an edge as very few of the rest have even run at the distance. After winning a group 3 stakes last fall in Germany at the distance, Fitful Skies came to North America and nearly won the E. P. Taylor Stakes in October, missing by a head at the finish line with a career-best 114  Equibase Speed Figure. Although her return to the races last month when ninth in the Jenny Wiley Stakes was disappointing at best, the reason Fitful Skies may return to top form is the E. P. Taylor effort came on a wet course labeled yielding, and with the recent spate of rain at Belmont it is very likely she will get the same kind of turf on Saturday.

Modernstone is one of two in the Sheepshead Bay trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott (the other is Riposte). Modernstone makes her U.S. debut after five very competitive efforts in a row when first or second on an all-weather surface in England. Prior to those races Modernstone won a stakes on a soft turf course. Having run very well recently at distances ranging from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles Modernstone should really appreciate this 1 3/8 miles distance and can post the upset win.

Caroline Thomas ran too good to lose last month when coming up a head and a neck short of winning the Bewitch Stakes at 1 ½ miles on the grass at Keeneland, earning a 102 Equibase Speed Figure in the process. She had not run well in three races prior to that but last August at Saratoga in the Lake Placid Stakes she missed by a nose and was moved up to first after the winner was disqualified for interference. Jockey Joe Rocco Jr. rode Caroline Thomas for the first time in the Bewitch last month and rides her back, another reason to think that with the same effort or better, she can be in the thick of the action on the wire once again.

If the race is moved to the main track, two of the three gals entered for that surface may be standouts. Lady Cohiba earned a 102 Equibase Speed Figure when winning her most recent race on a fast main track and last summer won the Glens Falls Stakes in the mud, while Belle Gallantey won her third race in a row earlier this month with a career best 103 figure.

The rest of the field (with best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Abaco (107), Flash Forward (100), Irish Mission (102), Riposte (100) and Viva Rafaela (104).

My Selections (for turf):
Fitful Skies
Caroline Thomas

$200,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes

Saturday, Race 9, Belmont Park, Post Time 5:28 PM E.T.

1 3/8 miles, turf, fillies and mares 4 years old and older







Flash Forward

No Rider


Dominick Schettino



Joel Rosario


Bill Mott


Fitful Skies

Irad Ortiz Jr.


Kiaran McLaughlin


Belle Gallantey

No Rider


Rudy Rodriguez


Lady Cohiba

No Rider


Christophe Clement



John Velazquez


Shug McGaughey


Irish Mission

Jose Lezcano


Christophe Clement



Chris DeCarlo


Bill Mott


Caroline Thomas

Joe Rocco Jr.


Barclay Tagg


Viva Rafaela

Javier Castellano


Todd Pletcher


Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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