09/12/2012 5:08PM

Belmont: La Cloche back home for Noble Damsel

Tom Keyser
La Cloche has collected three of her four career victories at Belmont.

One thing La Cloche has in common with her Grade 1-winning younger sister Winter Memories is a fondness for the turf courses at Belmont Park. Saturday, La Cloche returns to her preferred surface when she faces eight opponents in the Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel Stakes for fillies and mares at a mile.

La Cloche has recorded three of her four career victories at Belmont, including a 3 1/4-length score in the Voodoo Dancer Stakes here on July 8. Most recently, La Cloche finished fifth in the De La Rose, behind Julie’s Love and Dealbata, both of whom she will face again on Saturday.

“She loves Belmont. She loves that one turn, always runs good on it,” said trainer Jimmy Toner.

Toner added that in the De La Rose La Cloche “might have been a little closer up than I’d like to have seen her … it’s just the way the race unfolded. She’s back home and she loves the track, I expect a better effort out of her.”

La Cloche did put in a slow work – a half-mile in 54.42 seconds – over a yielding turf course here on Monday, but Toner said that was more of a communication error between he and the exercise rider as Toner worked her a little closer to the race than usual.

“I’d rather have her do that than go too fast,” Toner said.

The Noble Damsel drew a field of nine, including Embarr, Kya One, Law of the Range, Dealbata, Naples Bay, Julie’s Love, Silver Screamer, and Federation.

Fort Larned sharp in Gold Cup work

Fort Larned, the Whitney Invitational Handicap winner, worked a sharp five furlongs in 1:00.46 over Belmont’s main track Wednesday morning, three days after working an easy half-mile in 50.22 seconds over the training track.

Fort Larned is preparing for a start in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup here on Sept. 29.

In Wednesday’s work, Fort Larned went his first three furlongs in 37.40 seconds and his final quarter in 23.06 seconds. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.70, according to the Belmont clockers.

“He likes the track a lot,” exercise rider Kate Merritt said. “He’s been full of himself. He came back after that work and was not blowing real hard.”

Assistant trainer Peggy Dunleavy oversaw the work for trainer Ian Wilkes and said she has been pleased with how Fort Larned has trained since arriving at Belmont from Saratoga on Sept. 5.

“He acted right, did everything right like a professional,” Dunleavy said. “We hope we’re doing things properly and we don’t let Ian down.”

I Bet Toni Knows can keep Entourage rolling

Entourage Stable, an under-the-radar racing partnership, won its 11th race since March 2011 when Easy Ending won Wednesday’s first at Belmont. The partnership hopes to keep their success rolling Friday with I Bet Toni Knows in the $85,000 Judy Soda Stakes.

Entourage, headed by president Jamie LaMonica and racing manager Michael Sherack, has seven horses, all New York-breds, led by I Bet Toni Knows, who won a division of the Stallion Stakes in June at Belmont. The horse was scratched out of a stakes on Aug. 9 at Saratoga after sustaining superficial cuts at the gate.

I Bet Toni Knows was transferred to Rudy Rodriguez because her previous trainer, Eric Reed, did not return to New York after the Saratoga meet. On Friday, I Bet Toni Knows is running on the dirt for the first time since March, when she won a first-level allowance over Aqueduct’s inner track.

“This will give us a gauge on where we’re at,” Sherack said. “She may be better on grass but we want to keep her up here for the winter and run her on the dirt.”

Sherack said that Entourage has 10 to 15 partners but is looking to expand.

“Hopefully, Entourage becomes a bigger entourage,” Sherack said.

◗ Josephine Amato, the wife of blacksmith Ray Amato and mother-in-law of jockey Mike Luzzi, died Tuesday.

A memorial service will be held Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Park Funeral Chapel, 2175 Jericho Turnpike, Garden City Park, N.Y.

◗ C.C’s Pal, winner of the Vagrancy and Honorable Miss handicaps this year, worked five furlongs in 59.65 seconds Wednesday morning at Aqueduct. She is being pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap on Sept. 22. The Gallant Bloom, expected to attract Musical Romance and Emma’s Encore, is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.