05/14/2012 3:27PM

Belmont: Awesome Maria, It’s Tricky work towards Phipps

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Maria, rearing up at the start of the Sabin at Gulfstream Park, had a sharp five-furlong work in preparation for next month's Ogden Phipps.

With Havre de Grace retired, the older filly and mare division will be looking for a new leader. Awesome Maria and It’s Tricky are among the leading candidates to assume the throne. On Monday, both tuned up for their impending showdown in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps here on May 28 by turning in sharp five-furlong workouts over the Belmont training track.

\Working by herself, Awesome Maria went five furlongs in 1:00.25, with a final quarter in 24.10 seconds. A few minutes later, It’s Tricky, working in company with the 4-year-old maiden gelding Fact, went five furlongs in 59.87 seconds.

Awesome Maria, who won last year’s Phipps as part of an injury shortened 4-for-4 campaign, has won both of her starts this year, winning the Sabin and Rampart handicaps at Gulfstream Park.

“We’re hoping to extend our season a little bit this year. It was cut short last year,” Pletcher said. “She continues to do everything well.”

It’s Tricky, who is 2 for 2 this year with wins in the Top Flight and Distaff handicaps, worked a strong five furlongs outside of Fact. She went in fractions of 12.23 seconds, 23.72, and 35.07. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.77.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who usually works his horses four furlongs, said he wanted something sharp from It’s Tricky because it will be 44 days between races and she is stretching out from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

“She did it very nicely, galloped out well, she looked good,” McLaughlin said.

Royal Delta may return at Churchill

Royal Delta, last year’s 3-year-old filly champion who finished ninth in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31, returned to the work tab Sunday at Belmont Park, breezing four furlongs in 48.55 seconds over the main track.

“I think I’ve been putting it off a little bit,” said trainer Bill Mott, adding that he wanted Royal Delta to have sufficient time to recover from her Dubai trip. “She was ready to start breezing. Her coat looks better now than it did when she went to Dubai. Her breeze was very good.”

Mott said Royal Delta would not be ready for the Phipps and with no stakes in the division in New York until the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 26, he will have to look out of town to bring the filly back to the races. One potential spot is the Grade 2, $150,000 Fleur de Lis, a 1 1/16-mile race at Churchill on June 16. Royal Delta won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic last November at Churchill.

“It’s very, very disappointing that New York has lost its filly and mare stakes program from May 28 until the end of August,” Mott said. “It’s really sad that they have more stakes for fillies and mares in January, February, and March than they do in June, July, and August.”

This year, the New York Racing Association, citing short fields in these races, eliminated the Shuvee, traditionally run at Belmont this coming weekend, and the Ruffian, which had been run the first or second weekend of the Saratoga meet. Both of those races were downgraded by the North American Graded Stakes Committee.

The Personal Ensign was shortened from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/8 miles and its purse was hiked to $600,000.

◗ Pletcher said that Caixa Eletronica, winner of the $1 million Charles Town Classic, will make his next start in the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap on May 28. He finished third in that race last year.

◗ Zo Impressive, runner-up to Grace Hall in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, worked five furlongs in 1:02.25 under jockey Rajiv Maragh on Monday over the main track. She is being pointed to the Grade 1 Acorn on May 28.