Cluster of Stars, a 4-year-old New York-bred owned by Harvey Weinstein’s Turtle Bird Stable, is unbeaten in six starts, and her victory in the 6 ½-furlong Gallant Bloom for fillies and mares gave jockey Javier Castellano his fourth of five winners on Saturday’s card.
Cluster of Stars, the 3-1 second choice, returned $8.20 for a $2 win wager, completed the distance over the “good” main track in 1:15.72, and earned $180,000. Her bankroll now stands at $459,600.
“Breaking out of the gate, this filly had a lot of speed, but she was able to relax,” said Castellano. “I had a lot of confidence in her.”
The Gallant Bloom was Cluster of Stars’ first start away from Aqueduct Racetrack and beyond six furlongs. Earlier this year, she easily captured an optional claimer for New York-breds in January, defeated Nicole H by a head in the Correction in February, aired by 9 ¼ lengths in an open optional claimer in March, and reported home a 2 ¾-length winner in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap in April.
“She’s never done anything wrong, and she continues to improve, be right there against good horses, and do the right things,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen.
Castellano won with half of his mounts on Saturday’s 10-race card. His other four victories came in race 4 with Kingsford Drive ($10.20), race 5 with River Boss ($5.90), race 6 with Request ($5.60), and race 10 with Powerful Instinct ($8.10).
(Jon Forbes) Belmont News & Notes
• Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will be well-represented on Super Saturday with Royal Delta set to defend her title in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational; Flat Out attempting to turn the hat trick in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational; Slumber heading to the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, Ron the Greek in either the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Grade 2 Kelso Invitational Handicap; and possibly White Rose for the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational.
Flat Out, winner of the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, has a record of 5-0-1 from six starts at Belmont Park and may be joined in the 1 ¼-mile race by Ron the Greek, sixth in last year’s edition.
“Flat Out has never disappointed anybody here,” said Mott of the 7-year-old, second by a head to Alpha in the Grade 1 Woodward last time out. “He’s doing well and he certainly likes it here.”
• Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, on Sunday said Cluster of Stars exited her dominant victory in Saturday’s Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap in good shape and that plans for her next start will be determined at a later date.
“She ate up, came out pretty happy with herself,” said Sheets. “We’re pretty happy with her, also. No definite plans. We’re just kind of enjoying it.”
The Gallant Bloom was Cluster of Stars’ first start in more than five months. The New York-bred is unbeaten in six starts, but Sheets said she is unlikely to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in November because she isn’t nominated to the series.
Wherever she races next, Sheets knows owner Harvey Weinstein will be willing to wait for the ideal spot.
“He’s been very patient with her.,” Sheets said. “Most owners don’t have that kind of patience. They’re hard to come by.”
• Looking to defend his title in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational and earn a trip back to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is Barry Schwartz’s The Lumber Guy, who came off a six-month layoff on August 23 to finish second in the restricted Chowder’s First overnight stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
The gray Grand Slam colt has worked twice since, including a bullet five-furlong move in 59.44 on September 14, and was scheduled to have his final breeze for the Vosburgh either Monday or Tuesday, said trainer Mike Hushion.
“He’s a big, strong horse and he hadn’t really run his race since [finishing second to Trinniberg last year in] the Breeders’ Cup,” said Hushion of The Lumber Guy, who remained in California during the winter and finished seventh twice at Santa Anita, in the Grade 1 Malibu and the Grade 2 San Carlos. “At least, that’s how I consoled myself after the race at Saratoga. But, between that race and his work on the 14th, there will be no excuses this time.”
Overall, the 4-year-old New York-bred is 4-2-0 from 10 starts, with earnings of $756,300, including a victory in the Grade 2 Jerome in 2012.
Worth $3.4 million, the five Grade 1 races and one Grade 2 event at Belmont Park on Super Saturday, September 28, will bring together many of the nation’s top thoroughbreds - including Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Belmont Stakes winner Palace malice - for the most spectacular day of racing in New York this fall.
The centerpiece of the card is the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, a 1 ¼-mile race that has graced the resumes of some of the sport’s biggest stars, from Man o’ War, who won the second running in 1920, to Kelso, who won it five straight times from 1960-64, and Curlin, whose back-to-back victories in 2007 and 2008 were the lynchpins of consecutive Horse of the Year honors.
With all six graded stakes races serving as “Win and You’re In” events for the Breeders’ Cup in November at Santa Anita Park, the Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational, the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational, the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational and the Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Invitational Handicap will be hotly contested as well.