James Toner has trained some fantastic turf fillies for Phillips Racing Partnership over the years, including Wonder Again, namesake of Sunday’s $200,000 feature at Belmont Park. Appropriately enough, those same connections were represented by the victorious Time and Motion, who is advertising herself as the latest smart performer in the Phillips/Toner collection.
Confidently ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Time and Motion collared 5-2 favorite Harmonize in deep stretch to remain perfect this season. The Tapit filly thereby burnished her credentials for the $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) on July 9.
Time and Motion was a promising juvenile. After a troubled fourth on debut at Saratoga, she stepped right up to the Miss Grillo (G3) and produced an eye-catching late run for third. That earned Time and Motion a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Keeneland, where the slow pace was all against a deep closer. Yet the bay still uncorked a strong, seven-wide rally to go down by fewer than two lengths in fifth.
Since teaming up with Velazquez, however, Time and Motion has been flawless. She took care of her maiden win on March 20 at Gulfstream Park, and notched her first stakes victory at Aqueduct in the April 24 Memories of Silver – another past Phillips/Toner star and actually a maternal relative of Time and Motion.
The anthropomorphically inclined might say that Time and Motion is deriving inspiration from these race names. But however you describe her progress, she’s gaining confidence and developing into a proper turfiste.
As Velazquez noted in the post-race quotes, the “key for her” is securing better early position so that she’s not having to come from the clouds. On Sunday, Time and Motion was reserved in a ground-saving sixth early, a half-length ahead of Harmonize, through fractions of :23.46 and :48.46.
Harmonize commenced her move first, but Velazquez had to wait aboard Time and Motion rounding the far turn. In the stretch, Harmonize had longtime leader Taralena in her sights, and mowed her down. At last Time and Motion had worked her way into the clear. With an irresistible surge, she outkicked the favorite to prevail by a half-length.
That was no mean feat, since Harmonize had demonstrated a snappy turn of foot herself. Both fillies recorded final sixteenths in :11 and change. Time and Motion’s flourish was a little bit better, and she completed 1 1/8 miles on the firm inner turf in 1:47.48.
Between the time and the clear-cut margin back to the rest of the field, the Wonder Again shapes up as arguably a stronger indicator for the Belmont Oaks than Saturday’s corresponding Pennine Ridge (G3) was for the Belmont Derby (G1). While much depends on the international brigade shipping in for both, the fillies may put up a stiffer resistance.
The form has a solid look too, considering that Harmonize was coming off a frustrating third to Catch a Glimpse in the Edgewood (G3). She would have been closer there but for a stumble at the start.
Wonder Again third-placer Last Waltz likewise anchors the form, making it a clean trifecta of BC Juvenile Fillies Turf alumnae. Group 3-placed in Ireland, the import was most recently runner-up to Time and Motion in the Memories of Silver.
Last Waltz closed from last to finish a clear third Sunday by 2 1/4 lengths, proving her 22-1 odds all wrong. She was the least fancied of Chad Brown’s quartet, but outperformed Grey Stark (fourth), Elysea’s World (sixth), and Verbouwen (ninth). Pacesetter Taralena tired to fifth of 10.
Time and Motion’s resume now reads 6-3-0-1, $258,150. The homebred is a half-sister to Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Awesome Bet and to multiple Grade 3-placed Moment in Dixie. They are all out of stakes winner and multiple Grade 3-placed Ellie’s Moment, herself a three-quarter sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire and noted Japanese sire Brian’s Time. This superb family is also responsible for such champions as Sunshine Forever and Ryafan and renowned sire Dynaformer.
Quotes from NYRA
Jimmy Toner on winning the race in Wonder Again’s honor: “It’s especially gratifying. I was just looking at the pictures of Wonder Again in the office this morning and thinking about it. My thought was [that] if it was pouring rain, it would be a typical Wonder Again day. Fortunately, the rain held off but she used to love the rain and soft ground. It’s exciting to win a race named for a horse you’ve had.
“[It was] a little hairy around the turn there, but Johnny said he was just waiting to ask. Once she got clear, I could see she was kicking. It was close but she was making a run at it. We’ll point to the Belmont Oaks, that’ll be the next target. We’ve been very fortunate but she’s been exciting to be around. It’s a long way to go but she’s working her way there.”
Winning rider John Velazquez: “She can run all day. You wish every horse you ride can be like her.
“I didn’t want to be too far back with her and she broke really nice. Once my horse switched lanes, she responded right away. By the eighth pole, I started getting the momentum going and she got her stride together.
“She gives you a little confidence because she you can put her wherever you want; before I rode her, she was too far back and I guess it was too much for her to do. Now she’s more forwardly paced and I think that’s been the key for her.”
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher.