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Big Holiday Weekend of Racing


     Three of the best current Runnymede-bred stars are heading to post over the Memorial Day weekend in stakes from coast to coast.
     Woodford Belle, who is coming off a career-best second-place finish in the Bewitch Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, is entered in the $200,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares over 1 3/8 miles on Belmont Park’s inner turf course on May 26.
     The five-year-old daughter of Arch and our Notebook mare Tis Me has drawn post eight and will be reunited with Edgar Prado, her pilot in an allowance win at Gulfstream Park in December. Woodford Belle races in the silks of Runnymede Chairman Catesby W. Clay, for whom she also gained third in The Very One Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream in February.Woodford Belle wins at Gulfstream Park (Coglianese Photos)
     The Sheepshead Bay has drawn a deep field of ten topped by Grade 1 winner Aruna, multiple graded winner Hit It Rich and Grade 1-placed stakes winner Distorted Legacy.
      Another Runnymede-bred, stakes winner Pinch Pie, also is entered in the Sheepshead Bay, but she is an also-eligible for main track only. Since weather forecasts call for only a 30% chance of isolated afternoon thunderstorms in Elmont, New York, it seems highly unlikely the race will be taken off the turf.
      Pinch Pie’s trainer Tony Dutrow has an alternative plan—she has also been entered in the $100,000 Violet Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the grass at Monmouth Park on May 28. By Victory Gallop out of our Olympio mare Romp and Stomp, the versatile Pinch Pie finished third to champion Royal Delta in last year’s 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes (G1) on dirt and scored her stakes win on Monmouth’s turf course at the Violet distance.
     Jeremy Rose, who rode Pinch Pie to her Desert Vixen Stakes victory, will be back aboard and they will break from post six in the competitive Violet field of eight. Multiple South African Group 1 winner Here to Win, who captured The Very One Stakes this winter, will be one of the favorites, along with Grade 3 winner Unbridled Humor, seven-time stakes winner Romacaca and stakes winner Ruthenia.
      Also on May 28 but across the nation in California, Runnymede-bred Grade 1 winner and venerable campaigner Awesome Gem is entered in the $100,000 Berkeley Handicap (G3) on the all-weather track at Golden Gate Fields. The son of Awesome Again has drawn the rail in the field of eight and will be ridden by Aaron Gryder.
     Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Awesome Gem will be honored on June 7 in New York City by The Race For Education, which is citing the nine-year-old gelding for being the longest-running contributor to the organization’s scholarship program. West Point donates a percentage of Awesome Gem’s earnings, which currently total $2,761,370, to The Race For Education, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a special luncheon at the TriBeCa Grill in Manhattan.
     More information on the lunch—proceeds of which will benefit the Bobby Frankel Endowed Scholarship Fund—and on Awesome Gem’s honor is available on The Race For Education website. Steve Haskin, lead racing writer for The Blood-Horse, will be the featured speaker during the event, which will celebrate the late Bobby Frankel and his legacy.
     The Berekely will mark Awesome Gem’s 50th career start, a monumental achievement in itself in today’s racing world. He has won ten races and placed 20 times.