Wonder Again Kicks Off Belmont Stakes Festival

Consumer SpendingSarah Andrew

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The GII Wonder Again S., which grants a spot in the GI Belmont Oaks starting gate to the top three finishers, kicks off a race week loaded with stakes action Thursday in what NYRA refers to as the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Chad Brown has saddled the winners of three of the eight renewals of this event and it is of no surprise that he sends out the race favorite again this year in Klaravich Stables' two-time stakes winner Consumer Spending (More Than Ready). She is a deserving favorite after defeating GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner and recent Hilltop S. victress Pizza Bianca (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), who is now Royal Ascot bound. Her sire More Than Ready was responsible for the winner of the male counterpart of this race, GII Pennine Ridge S. victor Emmanuel.

Brown has won five of the last eight editions of the Belmont Oaks, the first leg of NYRA's Turf Tiara, and two of those victories came with Wonder Again winners Lady Eli (2015) and New Money Honey (2017).

A European-bred runner has only captured the Wonder Again once, but they have taken five of the last 10 Belmont Oaks. A European-bred, but American based contender has the best chance to upset Consumer Spending this year in Andrew Rosen homebred Skims (GB) (Frankel {GB}). The Shug McGaughey has won two of four starts and was third last out in the GII Appalachian S. Apr. 9.

“It wasn't the cleanest of trips [in the Appalachian], but I thought she ran a good race,” McGaughey told the NYRA notes team. “The winner was in front the whole way, so whether we'd have caught her or not, I don't know. She's trained really well since and we're looking forward to running her.”

A high chance of thunderstorms Thursday morning could leave the turf course a bit soft, which may change how this race plays out. Consumer Spending broke her maiden on a yielding course however, and there is a main track only entrant waiting in the wings.

There are two listed stakes for juveniles later in the card, which always draw some intrigue. John Oxley's Devious Dame, the first winner for GI Haskell Invitational S. winner, tops the fillies in the Astoria S. off a 5 1/2-length graduation in her Churchill Downs debut May 5.

Meanwhile, Wesley Ward, who has won his fair share of Tremont S. renewals, saddles the favorite in Thursday's edition in one of his early Keeneland winners No Nay Hudson (Ire) (No Nay Never). The bay graduated by four lengths in Lexington Apr. 28 under John Velazquez, who gets back aboard here.

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