09/30/2010 12:50PM

Persistently looks live at a fair price in Beldame

Barbara D. Livingston
Persistently, Alan Garcia up, scores a 21-1 upset in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Given her affinity for Saratoga, preference for two turns, and penchant for distance, Persistently is likely to be overlooked when she returns to Belmont Park for Saturday’s Grade 1 $350,000 Beldame Invitational run at 1 1/8 miles around one turn.

That could be a mistake. While Persistently won’t be the same 21-1 odds she was when she upset Rachel Alexandra and Life At Ten in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 29, she still figures to offer some value as the third choice in the Beldame. Six were entered for the race, but trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday that he is leaning toward running Bonnie Blue Flag in the $750,000 Cotillion on Saturday at Parx Racing.

There could be a game of cat and mouse up front between jockeys John Velazquez, aboard Life At Ten, and Kent Desormeaux, on Unrivaled Belle, the two favorites in the race. In the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, at 1 1/16 miles here in June, Life At Ten went gate to wire while setting fast fractions and while being chased by Unrivaled Belle.

If those two were to hook up – and with more pace potentially coming from Queen Martha – Persistently could work out a closing trip under Alan Garcia.

Persistently has improved with more distance and the addition of blinkers. Trainer Shug McGaughey believes the filly has also gotten better with age.

“She seems to have a different attitude about her,” said McGaughey, who has won the Beldame four times. “She’s doing a lot of playing and being aggressive on the shank, which she hasn’t been before. I’ve never run her long around one turn, I think she will be fine. The whole thing is if we get some help up front.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher was hoping Life At Ten would be able to work out a stalking trip behind speed horses Unrivaled Belle and Rachel Alexandra. That plan went to shreds when Rachel Alexandra was retired. Breaking from the rail could also inhibit a stalking trip.

“There was the potential opportunity to stalk two other speed horses, whereas in this case there might not be that potential,” said Pletcher, a three-time Beldame winner. “We might be on the lead or might have to keep Unrivaled Belle honest.

Trainer Bill Mott said he’s not concerned where Unrivaled Belle is early in the race provided she’s comfortable. Mott gave Unrivaled Belle some additional time off following her runner-up finish to Malibu Prayer in the Ruffian at Saratoga on Aug. 1.

“She’s kind of a nervous sort of filly, I guess you could say awfully high energy and the races take a bit out of her,” Mott said.

Miss Match, an allowance winner at Saratoga last out, completes the field.