06/16/2011 1:22PM

Belmont Park: Unrivaled Belle out to turn tables

Barbara D. Livingston
Unrivaled Belle (right) runs second to Blind Luck in the La Troienne at Churchill Downs.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Unrivaled Belle was denied her second straight victory in the La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs when she was outfinished by the champion Blind Luck. Unrivaled Belle’s connections hope to be denied a second straight runner-up finish in the $250,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap when she looks to one-better her position from this race last year against five quality opponents in the Grade 1 race at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Unrivaled Belle will try to turn the tables on Life At Ten, who beat her in last year’s Phipps, while turning back Life At Ten’s upstart stablemates Awesome Maria and Super Espresso as well as the talented Payton d’Oro in the Phipps, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles over Belmont’s main track. Absinthe Minded completes the field.

Though she also lost to Life At Ten in the Grade 1 Beldame here last fall, Unrivaled Belle completed her 4-year-old season with a victory over Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. Havre de Grace has ascended to the top of the female division this year, while Blind Luck overcame a severe stumble at the start of the La Troienne to beat Unrivaled Belle.

The La Troienne was definitely an improved performance from Unrivaled Belle’s seasonal debut, when was beaten 10 lengths by Awesome Maria in the Grade 3 Rampart at Gulfstream in April.

“Blind Luck stumbled leaving there, but she tucked in on the first turn, and we were three wide on the first turn and he took her five wide on the second turn,” said Mott, referring to jockey Kent Desormeaux. “There were three of them spread out in front of her, and he took her outside instead of tucking in and saving any ground.”

Absinthe Minded and Awesome Maria dueled on the lead in the Grade 2 Shuvee last month here, with Awesome Maria getting up by a head late in the one-mile race.

That was Awesome Maria’s third consecutive graded stakes win of the year, having taken the Sabin and Rampart at Gulfstream.

“She got a good blow out of the last race,” said Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Awesome Maria, Life At Ten, and Super Espresso. “Hopefully that sets her up for a strong effort in here.”

Awesome Maria will carry highweight of 124 pounds under John Velazquez, who takes off Life At Ten. She is spotting two to eight pounds to the field.

Life At Ten has not looked like the same mare who won this race last year by almost three lengths. After being distanced in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies' Classic, Life At Ten finished second in an allowance race and was a well-beaten third in the Allaire duPont Distaff at Pimlico on May 21. Pletcher has liked the way Life At Ten has trained since then and is hopeful the 6-year-old mare simply needed a couple of races to return to form. Cornelio Velasquez rides.

Super Espresso turned in a career-best performance rallying from well off the pace to win the Dupont by three-quarters of a length over Payton d’Oro. Pletcher said cutting back to one turn is “little bit of a concern,” but he thought her half-mile breeze here Monday was among her best.

Payton d’Oro, who will break under Gabriel Saez at 116 pounds, has a definite upset chance if the potential for a fast pace is realized.