Chad Brown saddles three of the seven runners for this weekend’s $250,000 Just a Game Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
The leading trainer will saddle up former Breeders’ Cup winners Uni and Newspaperofrecord alongside Regal Glory in Saturday’s feature event on the Long Island card.
The four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer concedes it isn’t his ‘normal’ approach but given the way 2020 is unfolding; Brown is happy to adapt his plans and take in the rescheduled Grade 1 contest, which routinely would have run on the Belmont Stakes undercard, but now slots in this weekend in the New York Racing Association’s amended stakes schedule.
Brown has grabbed the last three renewals of the Just a Game Stakes with Antone, A Raving Beauty and Rushing Fall; and victory for one his trio of contenders this weekend would move him to within one of the record five wins in the race achieved by William I. Mott.
Irad Ortiz is set to partner Newspaperofrecord, who captured the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, while Joel Rosario will be on board Uni; winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile in 2019.
Regal Glory, second in the Intercontinental Stakes this month behind front-running stablemate Newspaperofrecord, will have last weekend’s Belmont Stakes-winning rider Manuel Franco on top.
The Just a Game comes just three weeks on from the Intercontinental run and Brown suggests this scenario is atypical from his normal race-planning.
“It’s not normally what I do, but it’s a crammed schedule this year,” he said.
He admits that Newspaperofrecord has come out of her race well, though Brown feels a more laid back run will be needed on her return to Grade 1 company.
“She went a little faster on the front end than I wanted,” he said of the Intercontinental win. “She was so relaxed going into the race, and I was worried going that fast might blow her head up again, but she’s worked nicely since then and I think she’ll be able to rate slower this time.”
Unbeaten as a juvenile, the daughter of Lope de Vega failed to win as a three-year-old last season and this return to elite company will be an acid test for Newspaperofrecord.
Uni meanwhile will be reappearing for her 2020 bow, having been off since that Breeders’ Cup win in November. A minor splint injury was reported during the winter layoff but Brown feels the six-year-old is ready for the return to racing.
She locks horns with old rival Got Stormy here and Brown admits this is the first step on a path he hopes will lead back to the Breeders’ Cup and a defence of the Turf Mile. She may be having her first run; but the trainer says she is ready to put in a solid performance.
“It’s not like I’m getting her ready for the Breeders’ Cup Mile off a layoff,” he added. “It’s a very competitive race, but it’s not going to be the toughest race she will run in all year.
“If anything, it might be the least-toughest of all the big engagements she will have this year. We’re thankful that if she ever has to come in at 80 or 90 per-cent ready; this is the one to do it in.”
Beau Recall for the Brad Cox team, Kelly Breen’s Valedictorian and the Brendan Walsh-trained Zofelle complete the seven-runner field for the $250,000 Just a Games Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday.