ELMONT, N.Y. -- Interactif found himself a home on the grass with an explosive 4 1/4-length victory in last month's Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga. On Sunday, trainer Todd Pletcher hopes Interactif can earn himself a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf when he heads a nine-horse field entered in the Grade 3, $150,000 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Pilgrim is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race, meaning the winner earns an automatic berth into the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 7. The Grade 3, $150,000 Miss Grillo, the filly counterpart to the Pilgrim also run Sunday, offers a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 6 for its winner.
Interactif won his career debut on dirt going five furlongs at Monmouth Park, but he finished eighth when he tried graded company in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga on July 30. Pletcher worked him on the turf a week before the With Anticipation and liked what he saw. Interactif transformed that morning move into a powerful stalking performance in the afternoon, running away from eight rivals in the stretch to win the With Anticipation comfortably.
"I don't think you ever expect in any turf race to win by large margins like that; it generally doesn't happen," Pletcher said. "We were very impressed by his work on the turf before the With Anticipation, so I'm not surprised that he won, but I was very pleased that he won as well as he did."
Pletcher said his concern Sunday is the prospect of soft turf as rain was forecast Saturday.
Though Paddy O'Prado is a maiden, his two turf races warrant him consideration in this spot. He was caught wide around both turns and closed resolutely when second in an Aug. 5 maiden race at Saratoga. He had another wide trip when third to Interactif in the With Anticipation. Trainer Dale Romans is looking forward to Belmont's wider turf course.
"I think with the bigger turns that helps," Romans said.
In the Miss Grillo, Romans sends out Tapitsfly, who comes off a 1 1/4-length victory in the P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 3, her turf debut.
"We thought she'd move up on turf -- she did," Romans said. "She couldn't be doing any better."
While Tapitsfly won the P.G. Johnson in front-running fashion, Romans has little concern that she can be successful from off the pace as well.
"In her dirt races, she didn't mind coming from behind," Romans said. "If somebody wants to send, she can rate. She'll settle."
Trainer Graham Motion entered three in the Miss Grillo, but will run only two. Of the coupled entry of Smart Seattle and Zilva, Motion said he is more inclined to run Smart Seattle. He also entered Check the Label, who goes out as a separate betting interest.
Smart Seattle finished second to Tapitsfly in the P.G. Johnson. She was stretching out to 1 1/16 miles while coming back just three weeks after winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race and had the outside post.
"I thought she ran well, it was a big step up from a 5 1/2-furlong maiden three weeks later with not a great post," Motion said. "I think it was expecting a lot from her."
Smart Seattle breaks from the rail under Jeremy Rose.
In her only start on turf, Check the Label won a one-mile maiden race at Colonial Downs before finishing a well-beaten fourth in the off-the-turf Junior Champion at Monmouth. Ramon Dominguez rides from post 7.
Mike Gatsas's Sovereign Stable bought Negligee after she finished second to Franny Freud in the Ontario Debutante over the synthetic surface at Woodbine. She tries turf and 1 1/16 miles for the first time. John Terranova, the new trainer of Negligee, said he worked the filly twice on the turf and "she worked phenomenal."
Last year, Chad Brown won the Miss Grillo with Maram, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. On Sunday, he'll send out Zodiac Girl, who like Maram won her career debut in a $75,000 claiming race at Saratoga.