In the years before the Breeders’ Cup became the last stop for connections looking to garner a year-end award for their runners (and even many years after), the Frizette Stakes (GI) was a “must” event for the best fillies based on the Eastern Seaboard. Named for a top filly that ran just after the turn of the 20th century, the list of the winners since it was first contested in 1945 is remarkable. Champions to have won the fall feature include Idun, My Dear Girl, Cicada, Bowl of Flowers, Tosmah, Shuvee, Forward Gal, Numbered Account, La Prevoyante, Princess Rooney, Family Style, Personal Ensgin, Meadow Star, Educated Risk, Heavenly Prize, Flanders, Golden Attraction, Storm Song, Surfside, Confessional, Storm Flag Flying, Adieu, Indian Blessing, Devil May Care and most recently My Miss Aurelia.
Six talented girls will attempt to cement their place in history in the one-mile test at Belmont Park on Saturday, which has been carded as the day’s fourth event. The weather in New York will be iffy all day, with traces of Hurricane Matthew potentially affecting a fast track. Currently there’s a 50 percent chance for rain in the afternoon and the high temperature is expected to reach about 70.
Because the Frizette is a designated Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race, the winner is guaranteed a spot in the gate for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Santa Anita in four weeks.
St. Elias Stable’s Nonna Mela is the 8-5 favorite off her two consecutive wins, including the Adirondack Stakes (GII) by six lengths at Saratoga seven weeks ago. The dark brown daughter of Arch, who was purchased for $310,000 as Keeneland yearling just more than a year ago, is conditioned by three-time Frizette winner Todd Pletcher and will be piloted by Javier Castellano, who is seeking his second consecutive Frizette score after winning aboard Nickname last year.
Nonna Mela has shown steady improvement with each start and, though routing for the first time, is certainly bred for the stretch-out, considering who her sire is and also that she’s out of a daughter of the late, great Storm Cat. She’s likely to stalk the early pace, which should be no problem breaking from the three-hole. And while she won’t offer much value, she’s going to be tough to beat.
Yellow Agate makes her first start since defeating maiden rivals at first asking nearly four weeks ago. The Cristophe Clement-trained daughter of Gemologist only won by a half-length that day, but the way she won was nothing short of amazing, rallying from last to first after a rough break going six furlongs. Stretching out to a mile, which is more suited to her pedigree, and a likely solid pace should be ideal for her. All she may need is clear running room to make it to the wire in front.
Sky Gesture is another facing winners for the first time after taking her maiden at first asking by 1 ¾ lengths at Saratoga at the end of August. It looks like she’ll be heading to the front, especially since she drew the innermost post position, but she was resilient under pressure in her debut, which will only serve her well in here. Mike Smith is in town for trainer Rick Violette, and though the jockey hasn’t won the race since 1993 (Heavenly Prize), he knows his way around the Belmont main track well and has had some success with a top filly or two, especially recently.
Libby’s Tail was no match for Nonna Mela in her last as the favorite after breaking her maiden impressively, but to be fair she did have a very rough and very green trip. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee has been looking good preparing for this event at Aqueduct and, if she rounds back into the form, she showed at first asking she should have a say in claiming a bigger share of the purse.
Star Super was impressive two back breaking her maiden at Laurel, but had some trouble in non-graded company last out and will need a lot more to be a factor against the top runners in here.
The fourth race on Saturday is expected to leave the gate at 1:53 p.m. ET.