Off the Tracks Appealing in Wide-Open Jersey Girl Stakes

Off the Tracks Appealing in Wide-Open Jersey Girl Stakes

Although it’s only a listed stakes race, the $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes on Friday at Belmont Park has drawn a strong field of seven three-year-old fillies, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising in runners from this race wide up playing a major role in future graded stakes races like the Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III), Test Stakes (gr. I), and Prioress Stakes (gr. II) later this summer.

The morning line favorite at 2-1 is Kareena, a filly that has kept great company in the first two starts of her career. In her debut on March 6th at Gulfstream Park, she finished second to subsequent graded stakes winner Lightstream in a seven-furlong maiden special weight, and the third-place finisher–J La Tache–came back to win a maiden special weight in her next start. Better still, when Kareena broke her maiden in gate-to-wire fashion sprinting six furlongs at Keeneland on April 16th, she did so by five lengths while defeating the next-out maiden winners Julerette and Hilarious Brown.

In terms of Beyer speed figures, Kareena looks tough to beat. She has earned numbers of 98 and 84 in her first two races, both of which are higher than any number posted by any of her six rivals in the Jersey Girl Stakes. It’s not the biggest sample size, but it does suggest that Kareena is a legitimate favorite that will be difficult to beat.

But all that said, I think the proven class of Off the Tracks might come through in this race. Whereas Kareena will be making her first start against winners, Off the Tracks is already a graded stakes winner, having won the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga last summer by a decisive 3 1/4 lengths. That race marked the end of a brief, but unbeaten two-year-old season, and Off the Tracks picked up right where she left off when winning the 6 1/2-furlong Margate Handicap on February 21st at Gulfstream Park by an easy 4 1/4 lengths.

Subsequently transferred from trainer Rudy Rodriguez to Todd Pletcher, Off the Tracks failed to handle a combination of a wide trip, sloppy track, and stretch-out in distance when finishing third in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), but she was beaten by a good filly that day in Go Maggie Go and was right in contention until the final furlong. The cutback in distance to six furlongs should be perfect for her, and as a daughter of Curlin, she should be getting better with maturity and could post a career-best effort this Friday. Furthermore, with plenty of front-runners and speed horses in the Jersey Girl, Off the Tracks’ pace-tracking style should help her work out a great trip sitting just behind the front-runners. She signaled her readiness for this race when breezing four furlongs in a bullet :47 flat over the Belmont training track on June 2nd, and I think she’s poised to bring her record in sprint races to a perfect 4-for-4 with a mild upset victory over Kareena.

I also respect the chances of Blip n’ Th Bye, runner-up to the impressive Carina Mia in the seven-furlong Eight Belles Stakes (gr. II) on May 6th at Churchill Downs. A consistent filly that has cracked the trifecta in all five of her races, Blip n’ Th Bye was overlooked at 20-1 in the Eight Belles but had previously won the Cajun Miss Stakes at Evangeline Downs by 5 1/4 lengths. A track that was somewhat favorable to speed horses might have helped her chances in the Eight Belles, but she also had a wide trip and beat the grade I winner Nickname by 1 3/4 lengths for second. I think Blip n’ Th Bye is an improving filly with a chance to hit the board in some significant races this year, including the Jersey Girl.

I’d also like to briefly mention One True Kiss, who has unleashed strong late rallies in her last two starts to win an allowance race and finish second in the Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III). While she got great pace setups in both of those races, a similar pace could unfold on Friday, and that could help One True Kiss rally to hit the board at around 8-1 or so.

So to recap, I like Off the Tracks best in the Jersey Girl Stakes and would even consider singling her in multi-race wagers, although for deeper tickets Kareena warrants inclusion as well. Good luck to all, and enjoy the race!

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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