09/30/2010 12:49PM

Soft turf the lone question about Red Desire

Barbara D. Livingston
Red Desire has run well in major races in her native Japan, but has never raced on soft turf, which she is likely to get in Saturday's Flower Bowl.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The Flower Bowl is traditionally a spot for a European-based filly or mare to come to North America and strut her stuff. This year’s lone overseas representative didn’t come from Europe, but rather Japan.

The prevailing feeling is if Red Desire can duplicate some of her races in Japan or Dubai, she could be very tough to beat in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park.

The Japanese-bred Red Desire will take on seven North American-based rivals, including 2008 champion turf female Forever Together, the ultra consistent Shared Account, and recent Saratoga marathon stakes winners Changing Skies and Keertana.

The Flower Bowl, run at 1 1-/ miles, will likely be run over a soft inner turf course following strong storms here that forced the cancellation of Belmont’s Thursday card.

Red Desire has never raced on soft ground in Japan, where she won a Group 1 race in 2009 and finished third against males in the Japan Cup.

On Wednesday, however, Red Desire took two turns around the infield turf gallop at Belmont, which, according to her rider Kent Desormeaux was quite soft. Desormeaux, who has not ridden since fracturing a C-7 vertebra in his neck at Saratoga on Sept. 3, was pleased with how his filly got over the going.

“Most horses will pop a lead and pull up and stumble and do alternate things like that,” Desormeaux said. “When she hit the inferior ground, she switched leads and stayed smooth as silk. The Europeans are the ones that are usually very good at stuff like that, but she is too.”

“We are not sure she handles soft turf, she has never run on it, but it seems like she handled that [Wednesday] morning so it gives us more confidence,” said Nobutaka Tada, the racing manager for Yoko Yamamoto’s Tokyo Horseracing Co., which owns Red Desire.

Red Desire has not raced since May 16, when she was beaten a length in a Group 1 going a mile in Tokyo. She bled in a workout in June and will race on Lasix for the first time.

In a race void of speed, Shared Account could be dangerous on the front end. Though she has come from off the pace in her three starts this year, Shared Account won the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga last year close to the pace and set the pace when second in both the Garden City and Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland. All those races were run over soft ground.

Shared Account, most recently second to Proviso in the Diana, will be stretching out to 1 1/4 miles for the first time. But the added distance is something trainer Graham Motion said he believes will help his filly.

“It’s more what she wants to do than what she’s been doing,” Motion said.

Forever Together is still in search of her first victory since taking the Diana in 2009. She has finished second or third in her last seven starts, including the Grade 3 Glens Falls at Saratoga last time out. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard is replacing Julien Leparoux with Garrett Gomez, and would like to see his mare closer to the pace than she has been.

Changing Skies won the listed Waya Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 9. She was second to Lady Shakespeare in the Grade 2 New York in June over this course.

“She likes a little cut in the ground and a mile and a quarter might be a good distance for her,” said trainer Bill Mott, who has won this race four times.

Keertana, Gozzip Girl, Tarrip, and Ave complete the field.