‘Naturally Talented’ Annex, Maiden Winner Avenue Among Eclipse Horses Pointed To Turf Triple Series

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, a racing partnership started in 2012 by Aron Wellman, has NYRA’s Turf Triple series in mind for several of their talented sophomores.

Launched by NYRA in 2019, the Turf Triple series showcases the best 3-year-old turf runners.

The Turf Triple for sophomores begins with the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational at 1 1/4-miles [2,000 meters] on July 10 at Belmont Park. The series continues with the Grade 1, $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational at 1 3/16-miles [1,900 meters] on August 7 at Saratoga Race Course and concludes with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational at 1 1/2-miles [2,400 meters] on September 18 at Belmont Park.

The Turf Triple series for fillies kicks off July 10 at Belmont with the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational at 1 1/4-miles [2,000 meters]. The series continues with the Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational at 1 3/16-miles [1,900 meters] on August 8 at Saratoga and is completed by the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks at 1 3/8-miles [2,200 meters] on September 18 at Belmont.

Unbeaten in three lifetime starts at Gulfstream Park, dual stakes winner Annex broke his maiden going one mile on January 16 and followed with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Palm Beach on February 1, where he came from 22 lengths off a torrid pace for a head win over stakes winners Scarlett Sky and Chess’s Dream. He tracked a moderate pace from fourth in the one-mile Cutler Bay on March 27 en route to a neck win.

Annex, a son of third-crop sire Constitution trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in partnership with LNJ Foxwoods, will make his next start in the Grade 2, $500,000 American Turf on May 1 at Churchill Downs en route to the Belmont Derby.

“He will run in the American Turf and from there hopefully go into the Turf Triple series,” Wellman said. “The pace was pretty fast in the Palm Beach but he made up all of that ground and deserves a lot of credit for making such a big run. The pace was against us in the Cutler Bay, so he had to show some versatility and overcome a slow pace, which he did.

“He’s naturally talented, but still a bit green and not focused,” Wellman continued. “As he matures and develops, I think you’ll see him get even better.”

Wellman said the ownership team has long considered the Turf Triple series a potential target for Annex.

“He’s a high energy horse and we’re hoping that he continues to progress to where we can still consider these races,” said Wellman. “Our goal all along was to point for these races. He’s certainly bred to handle the distance and everything points to him being able to excel going nine furlongs and beyond.”

While Annex has yet to race past 1 1/16 miles, recent maiden winner Avenue, owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in partnership with Robert V. LaPenta, William Freeman and Michael Valdes, graduated at nine furlongs on April 8 at Keeneland by four lengths.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Quality Road colt finished second and fifth in two starts against maiden special weight company at Gulfstream Park, before shipping to Kentucky for his first career win.

Wellman said the decisive victory will propel him to graded stakes company in the Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge on May 29 at Belmont Park. The Pennine Ridge-Belmont Derby double has been swept recently by Oscar Performance [2017] and Catholic Boy [2018].

“From Day One we knew he would go two turns,” Wellman said. “At Gulfstream, the turf course is tight and on the speed-favoring side, so a mile and a sixteenth plays more like a mile. We had a lot of confidence in him going into his win at Keeneland, a course that he would be better suited for. We’ll likely point him for the Pennine Ridge and from there on to the Turf Triple series.”

Bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Avenue is out of the graded stakes-placed Dixie Union mare Magic Union who also produced graded stakes-placed Tizamagician. He was bought for $450,000 from the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Another rising turf star for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners is Aviano, owned in partnership with William T. Freeman and Valdes, who was third in an off-the-turf allowance event at Keeneland on April 10. After a trio of strong placings, the son of Medaglia d’Oro broke his maiden at fourth asking going 1 1/16 miles on February 28 at Gulfstream Park defeating highly regarded Alexander Valley by a neck.

“He’s definitely a quality horse,” Wellman said. “We tried facing winners and it got rained off the turf. He’s one that we would like to think could get into the series, but how we get there we’re still unsure.”

A $775,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale purchase, Aviano is out of the multiple-stakes winning Rockport Harbor mare Bryan’s Jewel.

In the 3-year-old filly department, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners color-bearer Con Lima is scheduled to return to grass after finishing fourth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks last out on March 27 on the main track.

Wellman said Con Lima, who is owned in partnership with Joseph Graffeo, Del Toro, Erik Nikolaus and Troy Johnson, will remain in Florida for and target the $75,000 Honey Ryder on May 1 at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/16 miles.
“We tried to see if she could be as effective on the dirt, but she proved that she is definitely superior on grass,” Wellman said. “She’ll stay in Florida for the time being and point for the first of May with the intention of possibly going to New York in the summer.”

Bred in Texas, the daughter of Commissioner previously raced for trainer Carlos David, for whom she broke her maiden by 5 ¼ lengths last summer at Gulfstream Park. Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners purchased a majority of the filly following the maiden score and transferred her to Pletcher.

Con Lima ran second in off-the-turf editions of the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and the Our Dear Peggy at Gulfstream. She picked up three turf victories this winter in Florida, including stakes triumphs in the Ginger Brew on January 2 and the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on February 27, where she was elevated to first via disqualification.

Spanish Loveaffair, who was disqualified from victory in the Herecomesthebride, is owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in partnership with Michael Hernon and Gary Barber. The daughter of Karakontie enjoyed a successful 2-year-old campaign, which included a win in the Sharp Susan on August 29 at Gulfstream Park and a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Jessamine at Keeneland for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

Last out, Spanish Loveaffair was sixth in the one-mile Grade 2 Appalachian on April 3 at Keeneland

“She never lifted a hoof that day, but she was dealing with a sinus infection,” Wellman said. “Thankfully we put that behind her and it explained her race at Keeneland. We’ll see how she does in the near future.”

Mia Martina was eased in her dirt debut in the Grade 3 Gazelle on April 3 at Aqueduct. Trained by Graham Motion, the daughter of second-crop sire Not This Time won her first two career starts and made her stakes debut when a late-rallying fourth in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks on March 6 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Wellman said Mia Martina, owned in partnership with Gianni Fittipaldi, will likely point for the Grade 3, $200,000 Wonder Again on June 3 at Belmont Park, a key prep for the Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 10.

“The Gazelle was an experiment to see if she could be as potent on dirt as she is on turf, which didn’t work out. She could potentially come back in the Wonder Again,” Wellman said.

This year, past winners of Turf Triple series races for fillies are incentivized by a pair of lucrative bonus opportunities at the upcoming Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course meets.

The “New York Stakes Turf Bonus” will provide $315,000 to the owner and $35,000 to the trainer of any previous winner of the Belmont Oaks, Saratoga Oaks or Jockey Club Oaks who captures the 2021 edition of the Grade 2, $750,000 New York, a 10-furlong turf test for older fillies and mares to be held June 4 at Belmont.

The “Flower Bowl Bonus” will provide $300,000 to the owner and $30,000 to the trainer of any previous winner of the Belmont Oaks, Saratoga Oaks or Jockey Club Oaks, who captures the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl, an 11-furlong test for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up on September 4 at Saratoga. The Flower Bowl is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event offering a berth in the Grade 1 Filly and Mare Turf in November at Del Mar.

Eligible to cash in on the bonus this year are Godolphin homebred Antoinette, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the 2020 Saratoga Oaks and Lael Stables’ Magic Attitude, conditioned by Arnaud Delacour, who bested Antoinette in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks.

For more information on the Turf Triple series, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/turf-triple-series.

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