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Al Khali and Alan Garcia return after winning the Bowling Green.
With the conclusion of the 2010 Saratoga meeting, New York racing returned to Belmont Park on Long Island. The highlight race on opening weekend of the Fall Championship Meeting is the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap (G2). Just 7,554 fans were on hand despite free admission, and racing conditions were ideal with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70's. Originally a field of 11 older horses was drawn but after 4 scratches, just 7 contested this 1 3/8 mile trip over the inner turf course, with Manhattan Handicap (G1) Winchester sent off as the 7-10 favorite off his third place finish in the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth. In to challenge him included 5-2 second choice Al Khali, third in the Sword Dancer (G1) last out, and 10-1 third choice Strike a Deal, winless since the Dixie (G2) at Pimlico and 7th in the Oceanport (G3) last out.
In deep stretch with Al Khali on the outside, Winchester in the center, and Simmard on the rail.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez sent Strike a Deal to the front first time past the stands, and he set easy fractions of 23.16, 49.31, 1:14.84, and 1:39.85 over the firm course, saving ground down on the rail around both turns. 16-1 Jeune-Turc pressed him a length back in second while 12-1 Simmard stalked the pace in third. Entering the stretch, Dominguez extended his lead, opening up a 2 length advantage at the 1/8 pole through 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.59. However, Al Khali and Winchester closed with a rush on the outside as Simmard also gained on the pacesetter. At the line, Al Khali finished a neck in front of Winchester in 2:15.23. It was just a head back to Simmard third, and a length back to pacesetter Strike a Deal fourth.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Al Khali Garcia 7.30 3.10 2.60 5 Winchester Velasquez 2.20 2.10 1 Simmard Velazquez 4.40 Winning Time: 2:15.23 $2 Exacta 3-5 13.40 $2 Trifecta 3-5-1 59.00 $2 Superfecta 3-5-1-4 229.00
Left: Al Khali in the winner's circle. His trainer Bill Mott said, "I thought we'd be laying second to the horse on the lead (Strike a Deal). I said, 'The horse of Goldberg's was on the lead in the Dixie and went wire-to-wire, and he's probably going to lead the race.' And he went, but then they slowed it down. At the 1/8 pole, I didn't think we had any chance, but he came with a good run."
Right: Al Khali heads into the winner's circle.
Left: Al Khali in the paddock before the race. His jockey Alan Garcia said, "My horse was the best today. Bill said to me, 'Wherever you're comfortable, whatever you feel, wherever you want to be, it's your decision.' He was sitting perfectly. He was going slow then he went faster to get me out into a better spot and after that, my horse was the best. I knew I had a lot of time. Mr. Mott did an excellent job with this one."
Right: Al Khali heads back to the barn after the race.
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Winchester heads out of the paddock. His trainer Christophe Clement said, "He ran well, he got beat, well done to the winner. Let's hope he can move up from that race and we'll go to another spot in three or four weeks." Jockey Cornelio Velasquez added, "I thought he ran very well. Once he was into the stretch, he gave me a very good run. The winner just got us at the wire."
Right: Third place finisher Simmard enters the paddock before the race. The 12-1 shot stalked the pace in third early under new jockey John Velazquez, and put in a strong rally late to finish third in a blanket finish. The Roger Attfield trainee improved his record to 4 wins, 1 second, and 2 thirds in 15 starts, earning $212,930 for owner-breeder Haras Santa Maria de Araras.
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