Justify's Aspen Grove Upsets Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks

Aspen Grove | Sarah Andrew

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Glen Hill Farm and Mrs. John Magnier's Aspen Grove (Ire) (Justify) became the second Grade I winner in the space of a month for her Triple Crown-winning stallion, as she slalomed her way through her rivals in the three-sixteenths of a mile to spring a 15-1 upset in Saturday's GI Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks Invitational S. Prerequisite (Upstart), all-the-way winner of the GIII Wonder Again S. last time, held for second after once again making the running, while the slow-starting Papilio (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) closed nicely for third.

Equipped with a stalls blanket and carrying the famed orange and black of Glen Hill, Aspen Grove broke outward beneath Oisin Murphy, but recovered and was able to secure a spot at the hedge as Prerequisite and 'TDN Rising Star' Be Your Best (Ire) (Muhaarar {GB}) eyeballed each other up front, with favored Mission of Joy (Kitten's Joy) a touch keen on their heels. The pace dropped away markedly down the backstretch, leaving Aspen Grove a tugging sixth, but within striking distance in a bunched field, and she traveled well enough as the six furlongs went up in a pedestrian 1:16.69. Prerequisite retained the call into the stretch, but Aspen Grove followed the move of Mission of Joy into the final quarter-mile, angled outside of that one at the eighth pole and kicked home strongly for the victory.

Aspen Grove turned in a shock even bigger than Saturday's to break her maiden as the 66-1 roughest chance in the G3 Irish EBF S. at the Curragh last August, then was seventh to recent G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and G1 Prix de Diane victress Blue Rose Cen (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac to end the season. A late-on-the-scene and wide-trip third in the May 7 G3 Cornelscourt S. at Leopardstown, Aspen Grove was allowed to take her chance in the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas three weeks later, finishing tailed off in 10th behind recent G1 Coronation S. heroine Tahiyra (Ire) (Siyouni {Fr}), but with a viable excuse.

“She was in season when she ran in the Guineas,” trainer Fozzy Stack told TDN Europe's Brian Sheerin earlier this week. “There's only one Guineas, she couldn't run in it next year, so that's why we took our chance.”

“Stumbling at the start probably helped her considering the wide post,” said Glen Hill's Craig Bernick of Saturday's performance. “He [jockey Oisin Murphy] was able to tuck right in and get good position. You could tell that she was handy the whole way. He's a world-class rider, a Champion rider in England which is probably the toughest racing circuit in the world. He's a great jockey.”

Murphy's most recent trip to America also proved fruitful, as he capitalized on his relationship with Japanese connections and duly piloted Marche Lorraine (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) to a massive boilover in the 2021 GI Breeders' Cup Distaff. This past February, Murphy returned from a 14-month for breaking COVID rules, misleading the regulator and prejudicial conduct and two alcohol breaches.

“She broke a little slowly compared to American horses, but I used to work for [trainer] Fozzy Stack when I was a small boy, 14 and 15,” the Irishman said. “To team up and win a [Grade] 1 for him in the Belmont Oaks is brilliant, really brilliant.”

Pedigree Notes:

Aspen Grove's victory comes four weeks to the day since Arabian Lion became the first Grade I winner for Justify in the Woody Stephens S. on the Belmont S. undercard.

A $145,000 Fasig-Tipton October yearling purchase by Mike Ryan on behalf of Klaravich Stable, Data Dependent broke her maiden at her third career start for Chad Brown and Klaravich Stable and was subsequently runner-up in the GIII Jimmy Durante S. Aspen Grove is her first produce. A half-sister to Irish highweight 2-year-old filly and G1 Moyglare Stud S. heroine Skitter Scatter (Scat Daddy), SW and MGSP Victory Dance (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) and to a Kingman (GB) colt that fetched €550,000 from Stauffenberg Bloodstock at last year's Goffs November Foal Sale, Data Dependent is also the dam of the 2-year-old Kentucky-bred colt Edwardian (No Nay Never)–a debut second at Tipperary for the Coolmore connections Apr. 20–a yearling full-brother to Aspen Grove and a filly by Charlatan foaled May 27.

Saturday, Belmont Park
FASIG-TIPTON BELMONT OAKS INVITATIONAL S.-GI,
$500,000, Belmont, 7-8, 3yo, f, 1 1/4mT, 2:04.09, fm.
1–ASPEN GROVE (IRE), 121, f, 3, by Justify
                1st Dam: Data Dependent (GSP, $136,670), by More Than Ready
                2nd Dam: Dane Street, by Street Cry (Ire)
                3rd Dam: Daneleta (Ire), by Danehill
1ST GRADE I WIN. O-Glen Hill Farm and Mrs. John Magnier; B-Glen Hill Farm (IRE); T-James A. Stack; J-Oisin Murphy. $275,000. Lifetime Record: 7-2-0-1, $318,652. Werk Nick Rating: B+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Prerequisite, 121, f, 3, by Upstart
1st Dam: Etsu, by Smart Strike
2nd Dam: Forever Beautiful, by Giant's Causeway
3rd Dam: Fly North, by Pleasant Colony
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. ($47,000 Ylg '21 KEESEP; $350,000 2yo '22 EASMAY). O-First Row Partners and Team Hanley; B-Brereton C. Jones (KY); T-Chad C. Brown. $100,000.
3–Papilio (Ire), 121, f, 3, by Starspangledbanner (Aus)
1st Dam: Glafyra (Fr), by High Chaparral (Ire)
2nd Dam: Akhla, by Nashwan
3rd Dam: Beautiful River, by Irish River (Fr)
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. (€60,000 Ylg '21 ARAUG). O-D. J. Stable LLC, Medallion Racing, Barry Fowler and Parkland Thoroughbreds; B-SCEA Marmion & Mr A. Jathiere (IRE); T-Mark E. Casse. $60,000.
Margins: 3/4, NK, 1HF. Odds: 15.70, 3.90, 7.60.
Also Ran: Aspray, Freydis the Red (Fr), Speirling Beag (Ire),
Mission of Joy, Strikingly Spun, Be Your Best (Ire).
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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