10/13/2011 3:27PM

Belmont Park: Unbridled Humor may be controlling speed in Athenia

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Barbara D. Livingston
Unbridled Humor has only been beaten once in six career starts.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup won’t be the only graded turf stakes trainer Graham Motion will attempt to win on the front end Saturday.

While Motion will be at Keeneland Saturday to run Summer Soiree in the QE II against Winter Memories, he will watch on television as Unbridled Humor will likely attempt to go gate to wire in the Grade 3, $100,000 Athenia Stakes at Belmont Park.

Unbridled Humor is coming off a front-running victory in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel here on Sept. 18, her fifth from six lifetime starts. The win came seven weeks after Unbridled Humor finished fifth in the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga, a race that Motion felt was “too much too soon” for his 4-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor.

Motion also felt he didn’t use Unbridled Humor’s speed to her advantage in the Diana, allowing jockey John Velazquez to harness the filly’s speed when she possibly could have busted the race open early and played catch me if you can.

The fractions were much quicker in the Noble Damsel as Unbridled Humor dueled outside of longshot Twilight Memory through a half-mile in 46.51 seconds before opening up around the far turn. She settled for a 1  3/4-length victory over the late-running Thai Haku, who is back in this spot.

Saturday, Unbridled Humor looks like she could get loose on the early lead under Velazquez.

“I think I’m okay with it,” Motion said about being the primary speed. “We found out last time that she can do that. I’m going to leave it up to Johnny really.”

In the Athenia, Unbridled Humor will have to go an extra sixteenth of a mile and, as the 123-pound co-highweight, she will spot the majority of her rivals 3 to 7 pounds.

“She’s a big strong filly, but seven pounds is a lot of weight certainly to be giving,” Motion said.

Motion indicated some concern about forecasted Friday rains making the turf course too soft.

Denomination, the winner of two Grade 3 races this year, is the other filly weighted at 123. A 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, Denomination has won a pair of Grade 3 stakes this year, including a neck victory over Zagora in the Hillsborough at Tampa in March and a nose victory in the Grade 3 Violet in May at Monmouth Park. She has not run since the Violet.

“She won the Violet in May over firm turf and came back very sore,” Clement said. “So we just gave her the summer off. She started working in September, every single work has been a better work so let’s go.”

Thai Haku and Aquitaine, second and third, respectively, in the Noble Damsel are back to take another shot at Unbridled Humor.

Countless Lemonade, Nefertiti, Stormy Dixie, and Thundering Emilia round out the field on turf. C.C.’s Pal is entered in the event the race is moved to the dirt.

Lots of speed in Chief Tamanaco

There are six 3-year-olds entered in the $60,000 Chief Tamanaco Stakes at one mile and it seems like all of them want to be forwardly placed.

Turbo Compressor, who won the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga in front-running fashion, had some success early in the year coming from off the pace, which may give him the edge in this compact field.

“I think he can successfully sit off it and I think those are the tactics that we’ll need to employ the way this race sets up,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I’d like to have seen him drawn outside.”

Turbo Compressor drew post 2. He is coming off a fourth-place finish behind Wilburn in the Smarty Jones at Parx. Wilburn came back to win the Indiana Derby. Smarty Jones third-place finisher I’m Steppin’ It Up came back to win the off-the-turf Kent Stakes and returns in this spot.

Also entered are Bold Warrior, who won a second-level allowance via disqualification, and Rustler Hustler, who is 3 for 4 at Belmont with a second-place finish.

Rustler Hustler, who had more success earlier in his career coming from off the pace, has been forwardly placed in his last two starts on turf. This will be Rustler Hustler’s first try on dirt.