05/26/2012 1:48PM

Hollywood Park: Belle Royale looks ready for prime time in Gamely

Benoit & Associates
Belle Royale won her United States debut in the April 7 American Beauty.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Belle Royale starts in Monday’s $250,000 Gamely Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park as a leading contender on the basis of her four-race winning streak since last August.

The Grade 1 Gamely will be her first start in a race at the highest level, and a far cry from her group stakes debut back in 2010 in England. Belle Royale was a 200-1 shot in the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished last in a field of 22.

Two years later, it is safe to say that Belle Royale has grown up nicely.

Now 4, Belle Royale won her final three starts in England, all in minor handicaps, before winning her California debut in the American Beauty Stakes at Santa Anita on April 7.

The rally she showed through the stretch of the American Beauty over a mile on turf has left trainer Simon Callaghan convinced that Belle Royale is suited to a race such as the Gamely, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“We’ve always thought a lot of her and we thought she’d take a lot of beating in the American Beauty,” Callaghan said. “We feel she can step in distance. She won over a mile and a quarter in the UK.”

Callaghan skipped the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap here in late April to prepare Belle Royale for the Gamely. Joel Rosario, who was aboard in the American Beauty, retains the mount.

A winner of 9 of 25 starts and $208,231, Belle Royale will be tested in the Gamely, which has drawn a strong field of eight.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has two formidable chances with the Santa Anita stakes winners Capital Plan (Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap) and City to City (Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap).

Capital Plan won the Santa Barbara over 1 1/4 miles on turf in her last start on April 21. The Gamely is her Grade 1 debut. City to City was seventh in the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 5, racing in traffic in early stretch.

Garrett Gomez rides City to City. Gomez was aboard the 5-year-old City to City when she won the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar last summer.

Add Bauble Queen, the winner of the Grade 2 Robert Frankel Stakes in January; Quiet Oasis, who won the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap here in April; Wild Mia, who has been second or third in three turf stakes this year; and Cambina, the runner-up in the Santa Barbara, and the Gamely is loaded with runners who are best from off the pace.

What is lacking is a confirmed front-runner, a role that could fall to Nereid. Trained by John Shirreffs, Nereid led throughout the Grade 1 American Oaks last summer, finishing in a dead heat for first with Cambina.

Nereid has raced from off the pace in subsequent starts, including a fourth in the Wilshire when she was beaten a length by Quiet Oasis.