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Bleecker Street takes her walk down Victory Lane after the New York Stakes (G1)
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival runs from Thursday to Saturday, highlighted by the 154th Belmont Stakes run on Saturday. Friday afternoon's card included 5 graded stakes, contested under cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 70's, main track fast and both turf courses firm.
The $750,000 New York Stakes (G1) featured a field of 7 older fillies and mares going 1 1/4 miles on the inner turf. Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) seventh place finisher Rougir was sent off as the 3-5 favorite off her win in the Beaugay Stakes (G3). In to challenge her included 11-4 second choice Bleecker Street, winner of the Modesty (G3), and 9-2 third choice Virginia Joy, winner of the Sheepshead Bay (G2).
Jockey Eric Cancel sent 51-1 Flighty Lady to the front first time by and she set fractions of 24.54, 50.76, 1:16.48, and 1:40.12 while pressed by 10-1 Family Way and stalked by 58-1 longest shot Lovely Lucky. In the stretch Family Way moved up to gain the lead midstretch but Bleecker Street, last early under Irad Ortiz Jr., came out 5 wide for room and rallied to win by 1/2 a length in 2:02.58. It was a neck back to pacesetter Flighty Lady third, while favorite Rougir failed to rally finishing fifth beaten 2 lengths.
Left: Bleecker Street in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "What a remarkable horse. I wasn't sure about 1 1/4 miles. She finished her races like she would get it, but as you know, handicapping doesn't always work out that way. Just because they're closing and you keep on stretching them out, sometimes it has to do with pace, when they make their move and how long their move is. This filly does everything we put at her. What a remarkable horse - where she started and where she came from. She's moving up in the ranks of one of the better ones I've had."
Right: Bleecker Street heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "Her closing kick, especially with those slow fractions, was nice. Not too many horses can go around a slow pace, slow fractions, like that. I made a wide move to go around and she still got there. She gave me a good kick. She's very nice. They were backing up into me a little bit and they were a little slow and then everybody was sprinting home, so it was hard to catch them. But she got the job done."
Left: Bleecker Street heads out of the paddock. Ortiz added, "I was confident the whole way with her. I never had a doubt because when I asked her to move forward, she did it and pretty quick. I got hold of her for a second and she went around and gave me a good feeling. She's a fighter and she's all heart. She's a good filly."
Right: Second place finisher Family Way returns after the race. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione said, "I'm very pleased. All credit to Brendan (Walsh, trainer). He and his team brought this filly over ready to run and she fired a big one. You figured they're going to be coming. I tried to track the rabbit as long as I could and get the jump on them, but we just couldn't hold them off. My filly ran a big race. Nothing to hold our heads down about."
Left: Third place finisher Flighty Lady heads out of the paddock. Jockey Eric Cancel said, "The filly ran huge. She never really gave up on me and they just ran her down. I really liked her. She was straightforward and very focused. Hopefully, I can get another ride on her."
Right: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Rougir in the paddock before the race. Trainer Chad Brown said, "She just didn't fire today. She was in a good spot, always ahead of Bleecker Street. We didn't have any excuse. We'll go back to the drawing board. Maybe the softer ground in her form suggested [she prefers softer turf[, but she certainly trained really well at Belmont."
Jockey Joel Rosario sent Jackie's Warrior to the front after bumping at the start with Baby Yoda, and set fractions of 22.83 and 45.52 while pressed by 12-1 Mr Phil and stalked by Sound Money. Jackie's Warrior opened up a 5 length lead midstretch through 3/4 in 1:08.68, and eased up 5 lengths ahead of Sound Money in 1:15.09, just 0.63 seconds off the track record. It was a long 7 lengths back to 69-1 longest shot War Tocsin third.
Left: Jackie's Warrior in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "He exudes confidence in the mornings and knows what he's doing, he enjoys it. I loved him in the post parade, just walked as far as they wanted and as soon as they started off, he just gave it a little play like 'Let's do this.' He broke nice and smooth, very relaxed. The separation he gets without being asked is beautiful. He's so rhythmic watching him run." He will run next in the Vanderbilt and Forego at Saratoga before the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland.
Right: Jackie's Warrior gets hosed off after the race. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "It took a little time to get him going, but he was just doing his thing after that. He's a special horse. I just sat and let him do his thing and he's unbelievable. He means everything. So many great memories. He's a special horse. He's very smart and fast and he's on my list as one of the top horses [I've ridden]. I looked back and was so far in front and decided to save some for the next one. He's special. You can see I never showed the stick. He did it all on his own."
Left: Second place finisher Sound Money heads out of the paddock before the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "My horse ran great. He kept trying and trying, but [Jackie's Warrior] never came back. He's a nice horse."
Right: Third place finisher War Tocsin returns after the race. Trainer Uriah St. Lewis said, "He ran good. We try all the time. He came into the race and he did good. I'm very proud of him against these kinds of horses."
Jockey Luis Saez sent Abaan to the lead saving ground on the hedges through fractions of 49.56, 1:37.96, and 2:28.22 while pressed by Outbox and stalked by 13-1 Strong Tide. Turning for home Abaan tired allowing Strong Tide to inherit the lead through 1 3/4 miles in 2:52.31. Loft, last early under Andrasch Starke, came out 4 wide into the lane and rallied by to win going away by 3 1/4 lengths over late-running 12-1 British Royalty in a new course record time of 3:16.68. It was a nose back to Strong Tide third, while favorite Abaan checked in fifth beaten 14 3/4 lengths.
Left: Loft in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Michael Weiss said, "Amazing [performance]. If we have the chance, we will come back."
Right: Loft heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Andrasch Starke said, "I saw there was a lot of space and the front horses were already under pressure. I didn't want to go so wide, but I still waited during the last turn and moved to the outside. He was making up ground well."
Left: Loft in the paddock. Starke added, "There was a lot of pace during the race and I trusted my horse. I didn't want to get in a hurry. I was travelling well around the bend. I had a horse in front of me and I had to shift out. He made no consequences and he ran a good race."
Right: Second place finisher British Royalty returns after the race. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "I thought I was going to be a little bit closer but he looked like he put himself further back. Then he came with a run after that horse got the jump on me before turning for home. I thought for a second we were going to come and get it, but he kept going. He ran good. A two-mile race is an unusual distance, so it's always a concern. But he did good and he hung in there. It looked like he had no problem with it."
Left: Third place finisher Strong Tide heads out of the paddock. Jockey Dylan Davis said, "He ran great. I thought he had a great chance. I know he was 20-1 but he had a really tough trip last time [in the Grade 3 Louisville] and he was better than that race. It's a firmer course now and he really wanted to be comfortable and he switched off for me. I saved all the ground and I got excited turning for home. He felt great. Once he started taking command at the three-eighths pole, I just wanted him to keep his stride going, so I started getting into him turning for home. I tried to hold on for second."
Right: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Abaan in the paddock before the race. The Todd Pletcher trainee has a record of 4 wins, 5 seconds, and 0 thirds in 14 starts, earning $435,470 for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Alex Daigneault.
Jockey Luis Saez sent Bella Sofia to the front immediately through fractions of 23.62 and 46.18 while pressed by Easy to Bless and stalked by Obligatory and Glass Ceiling. In the stretch Bella Sofia opened up a 2 1/2 length lead through 3/4 in 1:09.36. Obligatory came out for room and rallied by Bella Sofia held her off by 1/2 a length in 1:21.36. It was a long 10 1/2 lengths back to Glass Ceiling third, and 8 3/4 more to Easy to Bless last.
Left: Bella Sofia in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Rudy Rodriguez said, "She looks like she got a little tired in the end and didn't switch leads. I know in the back of my mind we ran her back quickly, but she's just so special. I'm just going to enjoy this one right now. There's a couple races in the program for her. I just want to see how she comes back. When she broke very clean, and Luis went 23, I said 'OK, now we're good.' Most of her races she finishes in 11 and change, so it's going to take a really good horse to get her. She's once in a lifetime and a dream come true."
Right: Bella Sofia gets hosed off after the race. Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "She's pretty quick. Today, we just let her be happy. She ran from there pretty quick and was comfortable. I was a little worried about [No. 1, Obligatory]. I know she's coming flying at the end, but I had plenty of horse. That was easy for her. She finished like nothing. She came back like she didn't race. A lot of credit to Rudy. Last time, she was a little tired at the end off a layoff, but today, she won easy."
Left: Second place finisher Obligatory leaves the paddock. Trainer Bill Mott said, "We ran well considering the pace scenario. Our filly laid closer and still finished. We were hoping somebody would try to go with [Bella Sofia], but nobody did. The Ballerina at Saratoga is always a possibility." Jockey Jose Ortiz added, "I was expecting somebody to put the pressure on the other horse [Bella Sofia] and nobody did. Nothing against the other filly, but I think my horse is better. She just beat me because of the circumstances of the race. I'm very happy with the way my horse ran. When I asked her, she was there for me."
Right: Third place finisher Glass Ceiling in the post parade. She improved her record to 8 wins, 6 seconds, and 5 thirds in 27 starts, earning $649,512 for owner-trainer Charlton Baker and co-owner Michael Foster.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione sent Caravel to the lead down the backstretch through fractions of 22.58 and 44.75 while pressed by Illegal Smile and stalked by 7-1 Star Devine. In the stretch Star Devine moved up to challenge through 5f in 56.45 but Caravel held her off to win by 1 length in 1:07.59. It was a nose back to 19-2 Jouster third.
Left: Caravel in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brad Cox said, "I was a little bit [surprised to see her on the lead]. I thought maybe there'd be one or two in front of her. When they broke, I couldn't find her early. I saw the eight horse [Assertive Style] had one beat and I was like well, we're inside the eight, so we've got to be close. Then she kind of placed herself in front and I thought it was a good spot. I saw the 22 and whatever and it was comfortable enough and left her enough to finish up with. I would say Saratoga would be the logical spot. At some point, it maybe makes sense to try a Grade 1. Not sure how many Grade 1s are out there for sprinters on the turf. We may have to wait for the Breeders' Cup."
Right: Caravel heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione said, "Today everything went according to plan. She broke alertly, put herself in the race and travelled great throughout. I really didn't expect to be there. I thought there was a little more sped. But she jumped so well and I didn't want to take anything away from her. She was just doing everything so easy. She was going around there with her ears going back and forth. When she was challenged, she kept finding more."
Left: Second place finisher Star Devine in the paddock before the race. Jockey John Velazquez said, "I tried to come in there, I just didn't have enough horse to squeeze in there. Then they ran really fast down the lane. I was surprised they went that fast. She always runs really hard."
Right: Third place finisher Jouster in the paddock. Jockey Flavien Prat said, "She ran a good race. I had a good trip."
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