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In some ways it might be the calm before the storm.

The featured race on Saturday at Belmont Park is the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap, which occupies center stage in advance of the two following weekends which will offer eight Grade 1 stakes and a full stable of Breeders’ Cup World Championships contenders.

Yet don’t judge a race by its American Graded Stakes Committee rating.

The $200,000 Gallant Bloom may not share the same rarefied air as the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) or Champagne Stakes (G1), but the 6 ½-furlong filly and mare sprint has taken shape as a highly entertaining race offering both an intriguing blend of Eclipse Award candidates and an excellent betting opportunity.

The field of 10 is headed by a reigning champion female sprinter and another filly who seems headed in that direction.

Musical Romance won a 2011 Eclipse Award after winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) at 20-1 odds. She had her share of problems after that, winning only one of her next four starts. Yet when last seen, the 5-year-old daughter of Concorde’s Tune looked as formidable as ever in winning the Princess Rooney Handicap (G1)at Calder by a half-length.

Given a short break since that July 7 triumph, Musical Romance shows some sharp workouts and seems poised for a top effort as the 5-2 second-choice on the morning line.

She’ll need it with Turbulent Descent breaking just outside of her in post position 10.

TURBULENT DESCENT

TurbDescentBallerinaHorse

The favorite in last year’s Filly and Mare Sprint, Turbulent Descent had her chances compromised in that race by a rough-and-tumble start and wound up fifth. Given nearly six months off after a sixth-place finish in the La Brea Stakes (G1), Turbulent Descent has been perfect in her two 2012 starts. She captured the Desert Stormer Handicap in her comeback effort on June 17, then headed east to Saratoga and took the Ballerina Stakes (G1) by  1 ¼ lengths on Aug. 24 to become a Grade 1 winner at two, three and now four.

“We felt like she came out of the Ballerina well and we still have six weekends from now until the Breeders’ Cup,” trainer Todd Pletcher said about Turbulent Descent, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, in a NYRA release. “I think she may need another race to be really spot-on for the Breeders’ Cup. She’s in good form and doing well. It was nice winning the Ballerina with her, and it’s pretty rare seeing a horse who can win Grade 1s at two, three and four. It’s a special accomplishment.”

As exciting as a Turbulent Descent-Musical Romance showdown may be, the presence of the two fleet fillies did not scare away several other runners with recent black-type success on their resume.

Seven of the eight other starters have won a stakes this year, and the one who hasn’t – Judy the Beauty – lost by a nose in the Prioress Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and is the 6-1 third choice.

Emma’s Encore (8-1) offers the most sentimental appeal of the rest. A 3-year-old filly, she’s trained by the sport’s beloved “Giant Killer”, Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens. She’s coming off graded stakes wins in the Prioress and Victory Ride Stakes (G3) and has a strong enough late kick to be a factor in the final furlong.

C C’s Pal (8-1) is also exiting a stakes win, a neck victory in the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) at the Spa when her late burst of speed was aided by ridiculous early fractions of 21 and 43 3/5 seconds that left the early speedsters gasping for breath.

The rest of the field includes Roman Treasure, Island Bound, Dust and Diamonds, Mildly Offensive and Risky Rachel.

There’s a fine blend of speedsters and closers, a distance that’s fair to both of them, and a couple of horses who can emerge from the race as the favorite for an Eclipse Award.

A Grade 1 test? Not exactly. It merely has the look, feel and anticipation of one.

And what are your thoughts? Who’s your choice to “bloom” in this filly and mare sprint?

$200,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2)

Saturday, Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:06 p.m. EDT

Fillies and Mares, 3 years old & older, 6 1/2 Furlongs

PP Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

ML Odds

1. Roman Treasure (KY)

J Lezcano

115

M E Hushion

20/1

2. Island Bound (KY)

E S Prado

116

I R Wilkes

20/1

3. Dust and Diamonds (KY)

J R Leparoux

114

S M Asmussen

12/1

4. Judy the Beauty (ON)

J Rosario

115

W A Ward

6/1

5. C C's Pal (FL)

A Garcia

119

R E Dutrow Jr.

8/1

6. Mildly Offensive (KY)

C P DeCarlo

116

T A Pletcher

20/1

7. Emma's Encore (FL)

R Napravnik

116

H A Jerkens

8/1

8. Risky Rachel (NY)

J Castellano

114

J M Coronel

12/1

9. Musical Romance (FL)

J C Leyva

122

W A Kaplan

5/2

10. Turbulent Descent (FL)

J R Velazquez

121

T A Pletcher

9/5

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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