10/08/2011 11:58AM

Belmont Park: Elusive Pearl using Pebbles as a graded stakes prep


ELMONT, N.Y. – The way she won her turf debut in the Riskaverse Stakes last month at Saratoga, Elusive Pearl certainly appeared headed for graded stakes competition.

While she most likely will end up there eventually, Elusive Pearl will make one more start in an ungraded event when she heads an 11-horse field in Monday’s $100,000 Pebbles Stakes, the featured event on a 10-race Columbus Day card at Belmont Park. The Pebbles, restricted to 3-year-old fillies, is carded at one mile over the Widener turf course.

After racing her on the dirt and synthetic with some success against modest company, trainer Michael Trombetta was hoping that putting Elusive Pearl on the turf would elevate her to another level. Against the toughest company she had met to date, Elusive Pearl rolled to 1 3/4-length victory in the Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga. She tugged at her rider John Velazquez early on, took the lead just before the quarter pole and finished basically under just a vigorous hand ride and two taps of the whip.

“It was her first time on grass, she was a work in progress and she really, really took to the grass like I was hoping she would,” Trombetta said. “She had a lot to offer when he did ask her for run.”

In looking at the calendar the remainder of the year, Trombetta landed on the Grade  2, $175,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12 as a major goal. He felt the Pebbles worked better as a stepping-stone than did the Grade 3 Pin Oak Valley View at Keeneland on Oct. 21.

Despite the large field, there is a void of speed in the race that Elusive Pearl figures to fill. Ramon Dominguez rides from post 5.

“I think she’s got a little bit of eagerness to her where she’ll place herself forwardly with a clean break,” Trombetta said.

Dominguez replaces Velazquez, who will be aboard My Redbyrd, winner of the Hattie Moseley Stakes at Saratoga on July 30 before finishing fourth in the Ontario Colleen Stakes at Woodbine on Aug. 27.

My Redbyrd won the Moseley from well off the pace despite slow early fractions.

“She’s pretty adaptable this filly, so I don’t think it really matters, she’s just really doing well,” trainer John Terranova said. “I hope she gets the right setup and kicks at the right time. She’s a filly that’s just steadily improving.”

Ruthenia and Divalarious finished second and third, respectively, behind Elusive Pearl in the Riskaverse. Both horses are multiple winners over Belmont Park’s turf course, though both seem to do their best running when there’s a strong pace in which to close.

Hessonite, who beat males in the New York Stallion Stakes in August, and Arch Support, beaten just two lengths in the Grade 1 Garden City, are upset candidates.