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2019 Year in Review
Ricardo Santana Jr. celebrates aboard Mitole after winning the Met Mile
Of the three Triple Crown races, the undercard of the Belmont Stakes has the most prestigious races on its undercard. This year, the 56,217 fans in attendance at "Big Sandy" on Long Island were also treated to 10 stakes (9 graded) including five Grade 1 events and 3 Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" qualifiers. Conditions were excellent with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70's, with the main track rated fast and the two turf courses rated firm.
The battle down the stretch in the Met Mile
Jockey Jose Ortiz sent 10-1 Coal Front to the lead through fractions of 22.17 and 44.38 while pressed by Mitole and stalked by 17-1 Promises Fulfilled. On the far turn, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. sent Mitole 2 wide and he swept to the lead through 3/4 in 1:08.24. Mitole opened up a length advantage midstretch through 7f in 1:20.13, and easily held off late-running favorite McKinzie by 3/4 length in 1:32.75, just 0.41 second off the track record. It was another neck back to 11-2 fourth choice Thunder Snow third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Mitole Santana Jr. 9.00 4.40 3.50 2 McKinzie Smith 3.30 2.70 4 Thunder Snow Soumillon 3.30 Winning Time: 1:32.75 $1 Exacta 3-2 11.70 $1 Trifecta 3-2-4 55.74 $1 Superfecta 3-2-4-6 436.50
Left: Mitole in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Today is what we had targeted. For him to come out on top against this field today under the pressure that he had, he proved what we believed in him the whole time. We're just so fortunate to be associated with this horse. He's obviously a very special horse. To beat the horses that were second and third obviously speaks for itself. To come out on top today, we are extremely proud of him. We will love on him and pet on him for a while, enjoy the victory and then regroup and decide what to do with him the rest of the year. I believe this race is the showcase we want it to be."
Right: Mitole takes his walk down Victory Lane. Winning jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said, "This is really a special horse. I can't explain how happy I am with this horse. He can come [from the] back, he can go in front, you can put him between horses and he always keeps trying his best. Today, we delayed as long as we can. He's a really amazing horse."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite McKinzie returns after the race. Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert said, "We had a little traffic trouble and if he could have gone right instead of left, that would have been the way to go. It's up to Mike to make the right decisions. The horse showed up and he ran well. Credit to Steve Asmussen, his horse ran lights out, and ours did too." Jockey Joel Rosario added, "It wss a very unlucky trip."
Right: Third place finisher Thunder Snow heads out to the track before the race with jockey Christophe Soumillon. He is the only 2-time winner of the Dubai World Cup. The Saeed bin Suroor trainee improved his record to 8 wins, 7 seconds, and 4 thirds in 24 starts, earning $16,511,476 for owner-breeder Godolphin.
42-1 Bandua was quickest away through an opening quarter of 23.68 before jockey Joel Rosario sent 11-1 Qurbaan to lead through a half in 48.73 and 3/4 in 1:12.24 while pressed by Bandua and stalked by 49-12 Catcho En Die and Channel Maker. Turning for home, Qurbaan continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:35.43 but was tiring. Favorite Bricks and Mortar, 6th early under Irad Ortiz Jr., came out 5 wide for room and swept to the lead at the 3/16 pole through 9f in 1:47.00. Kept to task by Ortiz, Bricks and Mortar drew off late to win by 1 1/2 lengths over late-running Robert Bruce in 1:58.11. It was another 3/4 length back to 9-1 fourth choice Raging Bull third.
Full results chart
Left: Bricks and Mortar in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown who completed the trifecta said, "To run 1-2-3 in it really points out how fortunate I am to have so many talented horses in my barn. To see the others be not far from Bricks and Mortar gives us hope they are going to have really good years as well. He ran great, he was carrying a lot of weight. Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] gave him a beautiful trip. He fell into a nice spot off the fence but had cover. Once again, he exploded in the stretch. This horse it just amazes me how consistently he is finishing on the turf. He's getting good trips, he's kicking at all different distances. [He's a] very rare horse.
Right: Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. tosses flowers aboard Bricks and Mortar after the race. Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "He's so good. The track was really fast. He always shows up. Since I've been riding him he hasn't got beat yet. I love this horse. He's a fighter. He broke perfectly and put himself in a good position early so I didn't have to use him, and I can save ground. I followed Channel Maker the whole way, and when I turned for home and I kicked him out, he just took off."
A field of 6 older fillies and mares went 1 mile on the Widener turf course in the $700,000 Longines Just a Game Stakes (G1). Jenny Wiley (G1) winner Rushing Fall was sent off as the 7-10 favorite over 4-1 Beau Recall, winner of the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2), and 9-2 Daddy is a Legend. 3rd in the Distaff Turf Mile.
Jockey Javier Castellano sent Rushing Fall to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 23.91, 47.21, and 1:09.21 while pressed by Daddy is a Legend and stalked by 21-1 Bellavais. Entering the stretch Rushing Fall began to pull away through 7f in 1:19.70. Kept to task by Castellano, Rushing Fall cruised the rest of the way to win by 2 1/4 lengths over late-running Beau Recall in 1:31.67, just 0.44 second off the course record. It was another head back to Daddy is a Legend third.
Full results chart
Left: Rushing Fall in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "Brilliant performance, probably her best to date. She's nearly unbeaten. One of the greatest turf mares I've trained, for sure. She's earned that. When Daddy is a Legend tackled her on the turn, I was concerned there for a moment because I knew it would be a real battle. I have a lot of respect for that horse. Thankfully, Rushing Fall showed her best stuff today and was able to fend her off and kick clear. I don't use the word brilliant too often, but it was a real brilliant performance."
Right: Rushing Fall takes her walk down Victory Lane. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "She's so good. I'm very lucky to be able to ride the horse, and for Chad Brown, who has given me these opportunities. She's a super-fast horse. She broke out of the gate but she was able to settle down in the beginning. It's amazing the way she finished. She finished really well. She was 1:31 and they tried to challenge her, but she's so good."
The $700,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) featured a field of 5 older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles around 1 turn of the main track, and is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race in the Distaff division. Ruffian (G2) winner Come Dancing was sent off as the 4-5 favorite over 8-5 Midnight Bisou, winner of the Apple Blossom (G1), and 5-1 Escape Clause, 2nd in the Apple Blossom.
Jockey Manny Franco sent Come Dancing to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 23.39, 45.96, and 1:09.23 while pressed by Escape Clause and stalked by 21-1 Mopotism. Turning for home, Midnight Bisou, 4th early under Joel Rosario, came out for room and took over midstretch through 1 mile in 1:33.27, and drew off late to win by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:39.69, just 0.47 second off the track record. It was another 3/4 length back to Mopotism third.
Full results chart
Left: Midnight Bisou in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "She makes you so proud. She changes people's lives. She's just a special horse and I'm proud to be associated with her. I believe she's added to how great she is with consistency. She's expecting to win, and I think the results speak for themselves. She will go back to Churchill immediately after this. The amount of time we've had her there, she'll most likely have a breeze or two at Churchill before deciding on her next race."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Come Dancing returns after the race. Trainer Carlos Martin said, "She tried to break so fast, the dirt kind of broke beneath her a little bit, but she still made the lead pretty easy. I felt comfortable going down the backside. The second fraction was a little bit fast, but the track has been fast all day. Midnight Bisou is a champion. She's 8-for-8 at this distance, so no disgrace. I'm proud of my mare. She hung in for second, so we'll regroup and we'll come back later on."
The $700,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) featured top 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the main track. Debut winner Guarana was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 9 over 3-1 Serengeti Empress, winner of the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and 4-1 Ce Ce, 2nd in an allowance last out.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sent Serengeti Empress to lead through fractions of 21.89 and 43.99 while pressed by 15-2 Cookie Dough stalked by Guarana and 11-1 Fancy Dress Party. Turning for home Serengeti Empress still led through 3/4 in 1:08.03, but Jose Ortiz sent Guarana to the front through 7f in 1:20.43. Kept to task by Ortiz, Guarana drew off late to win by 6 lengths in a new stakes record 1:33.58. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to 46-1 longest shot Jeltrin third.
Full results chart
Left: Guarana in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "She reminds me a lot of her father [Ghostzapper], so it's extra special to me having worked so closely with Ghostzappper and learning under Bobby [Frankel]. To have his daughter, who is equally as brilliant hopefully under our care is an incredible feeling. I'm a very lucky guy. I felt really good because I thought there would be a strong pace. I just wanted her to break cleanly and be near the front."
Right: Guarana takes her walk down Victory Lane. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "She broke her maiden in very good fashion. Last time she worked, Chad said she worked unbelievably and wanted to try her in the Acorn. I said, 'I have faith and I'll stick with you because I really like the filly.'It was a hard decision to take off the Oaks winner, but I didn't want to miss this opportunity. I thought the moment she broke she could make the lead, but then I saw that [Serengeti Empress] and [Cookie Dough] went on and I was able to drop in behind them. It was the first time she dropped behind. Her first race she went wire to wire, but she's very classy. All I can say is wow!"
The $400,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) featured 11 three-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Maiden winner Honest Mischief was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 3-1 Mind Control, winner of the Bay Shore (G3), and 7-2 Complexity, unraced since 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
Jockey Irad Ortiz sent 32-1 Strike Silver to the lead through fractions of 21.92 and 44.53 while pressed by 13-1 Wendell Fong and stalked by Honest Mischief. Entering the stretch Strike Silver continued to lead through 3/4 in 1:08.63. 19-1 Hog Creek Hustle, 10th early under Corey Lanerie, rallied 7 wide and outfinished 17-1 Nitrous to win by a neck in 1:21.12. It was another 3/4 length back to 15-1 Borracho third, while favorite Honest Mischief faded to finish 6th. There was an inquiry over bumping at the top of the lane between Hog Creek Hustle and Mind Control but the result stood.
Full results chart
Left: Hog Creek Hustle in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Vickie Foley said, "This is my first Grade 1 win, and what a thrill. He was tough in the paddock, which he always is, and then with the inquiry, it was stressful. But I knew there would be blistering speed in this race, and I knew that's what we needed. We were going for and hoping for the speed coming back to us. That's why we thought we'd be perfect in this race and why we came."
Right: Hog Creek Hustle takes his walk down Victory Lane. Jockey Corey Lanerie said, "He didn't have any speed. I let him fall back and run his own race. When it was time to go I just went around everybody to where he could get some clean running room. When I turned for home and tried to switch leads, I had no intention of coming over on [Mind Control], but he does that when you try to grab the right rein, he tries to run away from it. I was lucky that they left him up, because he was the best horse, but he needs to learn how to stay straight."
A field of 7 older horses contested the $400,000 Jaipur Invitational Stakes (G1) at 6 furlongs on the Widener turf looking for automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) winner World of Trouble was sent off as the 2-5 favorite over 4-1 Disco Partner, 9th in the Shakertown (G2), and 7-1 Belvoir Bay, 2nd in the Monrovia (G2).
Jockey Manny Franco sent World of Trouble to the front immediately through fractions of 21.99 and 43.85 while pressed by Belvoir Bay and stalked by 13-1 Om. Turning for home, World of Trouble continued to lead through 5f in 54.80. Kept to task by Franco, World of Trouble cruised the rest of the way to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Om in 1:06.37. It was another 3/4 length back to Disco Partner third.
Full results chart
Left: World of Trouble in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Jason Servis said, "Man, what a horse. I have to tell you, for some reason I missed the [fractions]. I was watching him on the binoculars. I was a little bit relieved that [Belvoir Bay] didn't press him. I got a little worried at the eighth pole and then it looked like he was going to be okay. I think he runs a little scared like 'I gotta go, I gotta go' but he's a special horse. I'm looking forward to training some of his offspring. If I had a mare, I think I'd want to breed to him with that speed."
Right: Would of Trouble returns after the race. Winning jockey Manny Franco said, "I know that he's fast and I knew I was rolling in front. I don't try to fight him or get on him too early, and he always responds. I knew he could get the lead pretty easy. By the eighth pole, I knew someone was coming closer to me, and my horse, when he felt it, took off again. I had a lot of confidence."
Closing out the Belmont Day card, the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Brooklyn Invitational (G2) featured a field of 8 older horses going the Belmont Stakes trip of 1 1/2 miles on the main track. Pimlico Special (G3) runner-up You're to Blame was sent off as the 5-2 favorite over 7-2 Campaign, winner of the Tokyo City Stakes (G3), and 4-1 Marconi, winner of the Flat Out Stakes.
Jockey Jose Lezcano sent Marconi to the front first time by and he set easy fractions of 25.16, 50.87, 1:16.17, and 1:40.45 while pressed by You're to Blame and stalked by 20-1 Realm. Turning for home, Marconi continued to lead through 10f in 2:04.16. 11-2 Rocketry, 7th early, put in a strong 5 wide rally but Marconi held him off to win by 1/2 a length in 2:28.97. I was a head back to Realm third, while favorite You're to Blame tired late and finished 5th.
Full results chart
Left: Marconi in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "It seems like he's really found his niche. He's gradually improving and been a lot more consistent in not only his races, but also training. I was happy to see him continue moving forward. The plan wasn't to be on the front but we wanted him to be in the race. Especially from the one-hole, I didn't want him to be shuffled back and over complicate things for him. Once Jose was able to establish that spot, the fractions were very reasonable. He kept finding a way to get it done."
Right: The horses break from the gate for the Brooklyn. Winning jockey Jose Lezcano (post 1) said, "He broke a little slow. He was looking around a little bit, but after that, I sent him and let him gallop alone on the lead. When I asked at the three-sixteenths pole, he gave me everything he had and went on to win the race. I wanted to be close. When the other Pletcher horse (You're to Blame) came to me, I wouldn't give him the lead."
The first stakes race was the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles around one turn of the main track. Alwaysmining was sent off as the even-money favorite in the field of 5 over 8-5 Outshine and 5-1 Majid. Jockey Luis Saez sent Majid to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 23.70, 47.55, and 1:11.46 while pressed by Alwaysmining and stalked by 16-1 longest shot Still Dreaming. Entering the stretch Majid opened up a 2 length lead through 1 mile in 1:35.24. Still Dreaming put in a late rally to no avail as Majid held him off by a length in 1:41.55. It was a neck back to 17-2 Grumps Little Tots third. Javier Castellano aboard Alwaysmining claimed foul against both Rajiv Maragh (Still Dreaming) and Irad Ortiz Jr. (Grumps Little Tots). The stewards allowed the first claim and disallowed the second, disqualifying Still Dreaming from 2nd to 4th.
Full results chart
Majid in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Rudy Rodriguez said, ""He showed heart today. It looked like he started to go to the lead, and he kept his determination so that was good to see he can do that. Hopefully, he can keep doing that. We'll go race by race with him and I'm probably going to take him to Saratoga and freshen him up a little bit. He's a 3-year-old and he's got the world ahead of him. I've just got to hope that he keeps improving. The distance is no problem for him."
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