06/27/2014 7:00PM

New York Stakes: Is Tannery ready?

Joe Labozzetta/NYRA
Tannery looks set for a big effort in Saturday's Grade 2 New York Stakes.

The Grade 2 New York Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday has the look of a two-horse race.

You have Riposte, who has had four starts this season for trainer Bill Mott and Juddmonte Farms, including a front-running win in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park last time out, and you have Tannery, last year’s winner of the Sheepshead Bay and Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine, who has raced only once this year in a minor overnight stakes at Monmouth Park.

A key factor in separating the two favorites is to determine if Tannery is ready for a top effort in the 1 1/4-mile New York, which will be run over the inner turf, or if she will need the race as trainer Alan Goldberg and owner Richard Santulli point her to the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga, a race they won last year with Laughing.

On paper, Tannery’s effort in the $78,000 Miss Liberty Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race on May 26, isn’t overly impressive. The final time of 1:43.97 over firm turf was slow, and she only won by a head. Runner-up Overheard’s best career win came in the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland last October. Like Tannery, Overheard has not run back since the Miss Liberty.

But the Miss Liberty was an interesting race on several levels. First of all, even though it is shorter than Tannery prefers, she was eager from the gate and took up a stalking position almost immediately – a positive sign that she is still interested in being a racemare at age 5.

Secondly, the race splits were slow early and quick late. The fractions were a dawdling 26.16 seconds, 51.22, 1:15.23, and 1:38.30, meaning the leaders, Tannery included, went in 26.16, 25.06, 24.01, and 25.07. Tannery put her head in front after six furlongs and kept it there to the wire, getting her final sixteenth of a mile in a sweet 5.67 seconds.

Finally, jockey Julian Pimentel put in a very cool, professional ride. Although he let Tannery take a short lead on the turn, he didn’t ask her to run until she was straightened into the stretch. It was the kind of race that puts some wind into a horse without taking anything out of them.

Following the Miss Liberty, Goldberg entered Tannery in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes against males on June 8. She has faced males six times in her 21-race career, twice in the United States and four times in her native Ireland. According to Goldberg, “it doesn’t seem to bother her.”

::DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers starting at 12:45 p.m. ET on Saturday

But when 16 horses were entered in the Monmouth, Goldberg decided to scratch Tannery and instead come to the New York Stakes, a decision that looks wise after Speaking of Which weaved his way through traffic over a crowded Monmouth turf course to defeat 13 rivals and earn a 97 Beyer Speed Figure.

“The wider turns at Belmont are probably a little better for her,” Goldberg said.

In lieu of that race, Goldberg has worked Tannery three times over the turf at Santulli’s Colts Neck Stables training center in Colts Neck, N.J.

With a useful Miss Liberty prep and three additional breezes under her belt, Tannery seems ready to jump right into her work Saturday.

:: Follow Jim Dunleavy on Twitter @DRFDunleavy