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The last round of Breeders' Cup prep races in the New York circuit were held at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon. An on-track crowd of 6,439 was on hand enjoying warm temperatures and clear skies with ideal racing conditions. Kicking off the stakes action on the card was the $400,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) for 2-year-olds going 1 mile around one turn of the main track, prepping for the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Hopeful winner Majestic Warrior was sent off as the even-money favorite in the field of 8 over 5-2 second choice Ready's Image, second in the Hopeful after winning the Sanford. 9-2 War Pass rounded out the top three on the board, making his stakes debut after winning his first two career starts.
Jockey Cornelio Velasquez sent War Pass to the front right away and he was allowed an uncontested lead down the backstretch through fractions of 22.87 and 45.72 while as many as 5 lengths clear of the rest of the field. Majestic Warrior sat in midpack fourth along the inside to save ground on the turn. Entering the stretch after 3/4 in 1:10.24, Velasquez asked War Pass to open up and he did, pulling away to a 5 1/2 length lead at the 1/8 pole. 32-1 longshot Pyro, who was last down the backstretch, came out wide on the turn and into the lane and closed with a rush but was left with too much ground to make up, as War Pass cruised past the finish post 1 1/2 lengths clear in 1:36.12 over the fast track. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to 36-1 lontest shot Z Humor in third. Favorite Majestic Warrior showed no response when asked in the stretch, fading to finish sixth.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 War Pass Velasquez 11.20 6.70 5.20 5 Pyro Bridgmohan 19.60 9.40 2 Z Humor Desormeaux 10.80 Winning Time: 1:36.12 $2 Exacta 4-5 250.50 $2 Trifecta 4-5-2 2938.00Results Chart
Winning trainer Nick Zito (left), celebrating his fifth Champagne win, said, "I got a good feeling from the fractions, that's the way this horse wants to run. It was a tremendous effort. I wasn't concerned about the distance. The sire is Cherokee Run and he's by Runaway Groom. The only thing is we'll worry about the three weeks but I've got good help and they know what to do. He should run well at Monmouth. Hopefully, things will work out. He'll train at Saratoga and van down to Monmouth a couple of days before the Breeders' Cup."
Winning jockey Cornelio Velasquez said, "He broke good. He went to the lead easily. He relaxed and I had a lot of horse under me. I waited the last 3/16 and he responded good. I think he is a good horse, a very good horse."
21-1 shot Dill Or No Dill contested the early pace with Indian Blessing down the backstretch through fractions of 22.58 and 45.45. Around the far turn, Dill Or No Dill tired, unable to continue the fast pace, which allowed Indian Blessing to inherit the lead after 3/4 in 1:10.40. When asked by Garrett Gomez, Indian Blessing opened up a commanding 8 length lead in mid stretch. 9-1 Backseat Rhythm put in a good rally but was no match for Indian Blessing who finished under wraps 4 1/2 lengths clear in 1:37.64. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to late-running Sunday Holiday in third.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Indian Blessing Gomez 3.30 2.90 2.50 4 Backseat Rhythm Castellano 6.00 4.00 9 Sunday Holiday Desormeaux 3.70 Winning Time: 1:37.64 $2 Exacta 6-4 19.60 $2 Trifecta 6-4-9 92.00 $2 Superfect 6-4-9-8 248.50Results Chart
Winning trainer Bob Baffert (left) said, "She semi-rated. She's very fast. She's been training easy in the morning. You never know about the distance until they go out and do it. This is very exciting. I've never won the Frizette, especially for (owner) Hal Earnhardt. He's my oldest client. He's been with me for 25 years. They are great people. It looked like (jockey Garrett Gomez) was shutting her down in the stretch, and then I hear the crowd getting excited and I said, Uh oh, she better get started again. I told Garrett, that he was starting to get us a littler nervous. She'll stay here at Belmont."
Winning jockey Garrett Gomez said, "I've been able to work her a
couple of times. She's been well responsive. I've been impressed with
her. She's just a little sweetheart and nice to be around. She was
pulling a little bit. I had a couple of horses on my hip for a little
ways. When (Dill Or No Dill) started to fold, I didn't
want to over-slow (Indian Blessing) down. She cruised to the lead. I
gave her a tap and she took off. I was very impressed."
Second place finisher Backseat Rhythm runs out after the race. Her trainer Patrick Reynolds said, "This filly is a hard tryer; the longer, the better. We went into this hoping she would run well and then go on to the Breeders' Cup."
Her jockey Javier Castellano said, "She's a very honest filly. She ran good last time on turf.,I really liked the way she ran on turf. Today, she responded very well. The winner was much the best, but my filly finished in the end."
When the gate opened, jockey Kent Desormeaux sent War Monger to the lead right away and he quickly opened up a 5 length advantage around the clubhouse turn, getting the quarter in 23.89, the half in a slow 48.20, and 6f in 1:11.47 while Red Giant stalked him in second, sitting a length off of him for the backstretch trip. Nobiz Like Shobiz settled in sixth early, well off the pace. Turning for home, War Monger stubbornly held the lead getting 1 mile in 1:35.12 but the closers were hitting their best strides and quickly narrowing the gap as he began to tire. Nobiz Like Shobiz came out wide into the stretch and blew right by the pacesetters inside the 1/8 pole, drawing off to a 4 length victory over Red Giant in 1:46.80 over the firm course. It was just a head back to another closer, 21-1 Pays to Dream in third, while War Monger was fourth.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Nobiz Like Shobiz Castellano 5.90 3.20 2.40 8 Red Giant Gomez 3.70 3.10 9 Pays to Dream Castro 5.40 Winning Time: 1:46.80 $2 Exacta 2-8 19.00 $2 Trifecta 2-8-9 145.00 $2 Superfect 2-8-9-3 507.00Results Chart
Owner Elizabeth Valando and trainer Barclay Tagg lead Nobiz Like Showbiz to the winner's circle after the Wood Memorial in April. Winning trainer Tagg said, "It certainly looked like his best race ever. We've always wanted to take him back, but I've always been afraid to. Javier has beautiful hands and if anyone can take him back, he can. He dropped his head and he was relaxed as can be. That's the whole key: getting him to relax. He's a very good horse, but it take a lot out of a horse to be right there on the front end every single time. I am going to go out to the Hollywood Derby with him. If he can do what he did today, he'll get 1 1/4 miles easy."
Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "Most people thought I was going to go to the lead, but I didn't want to. He might have to go to the Hollywood race at 1 1/4 miles, so I wanted to get him to rate. Today, it worked out perfect. He relaxed and got covered up. He just settled beautiful, and heading for home, I just had so much horse. I really liked the way he finished. Sometimes, he waits or plays around, but today, he put horses away."
Second and third place finisher Red Giant and Pays to Dream in a photo finish for the place spot.
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