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Uncle Mo takes his walk down Victory Lane after winning the Champagne led by his owner Mike Repole.
There were three Grade 1 races at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon, two of which are part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" program. Just 6,858 were on hand enjoying the sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's on Long Island, with a fast main track and good turf course.
Uncle Mo draws off in the stretch
Uncle Mo battled with 22-1 I'm Steppin' It Up down the backstretch through fractions of 22.41 and 45.92, with Brother in Arms stalking them in third early. Uncle Mo began to pull away from I'm Steppin' It Up on the turn, opening up a 1 length lead at the top of the stretch through 3/4 in 1:10.47. Mountain Town, 5th early, came out wide for the drive but to no avail, as Uncle Mo drew off through the lane to win by 4 3/4 lengths in 1:34.51. It was a long 9 3/4 lengths from Mountain Town to I'm Steppin' It Up third.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Uncle Mo Velazquez 2.40 2.10 2.10 5 Mountain Town Velasquez 4.70 3.70 4 I'm Steppin' It Up Cohen 5.20 Winning Time: 1:34.51 $2 Exacta 1-5 11.40 $2 Trifecta 1-5-4 67.00Results Chart Past winners of the Champagne
Left: Uncle Mo in the winner's circle. His owner Mike Repole, celebrating his first Grade 1 winner, said, "It's been 6 years as a horse owner, but I've been coming here since I was 13, so it's really been like 28 years and it just feels great. I won the first race today with Run to Grand Ave., who is named after the OTB I used to run to as a kid. Then, Gerard Loves Beer (won the 4th race) - I have one brother, you can just imagine what he loves - and then a Grade 1, having 40 friends and family here, is just amazing. It's just surreal right now to have my grandmother, my wife, my parents here. It's what horse racing is about. It just feels great."
Right: Uncle Mo in the paddock with trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher said, "He's obviously a very fast and talented horse and it looked as if he was doing it easily. We anticipated these solid fractions; the track was lively today. He's able to do things other horses can't do. The sky's the limit. I don't see how a horse could start a career more impressively than he has. His maiden was as good as I've seen, and then to come back and run 1:34 2/5 in the Champagne is unbelievable. He gets stronger as he goes along. He'll ship to Churchill Downs on the 26th and have one work over the track."
Left: Uncle Mo heads to the winner's circle after the race. His jockey John Velazquez said, "He broke well enough and I was trying to get him back a little bit. The other horse was right next to him and he got a little strong, but I didn't want to choke him down. So I just did give and take with him and tried to get him to come back to me a little. Even though he went pretty fast he was doing it comfortably. Once we hit the 3/8 pole he kind of let go of the bit and relaxed. And then when I asked him at the 1/4 pole he was there. The instant I asked him he accelerated. He galloped out really well. How good can he be? I don't know - we will have to test him."
Right: Uncle Mo returns to the barn after the race.
Left: Second place finisher Mountain Town heads out of the paddock. His trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said, "He wants to go further, the jock was saying, so we're happy. On top of the list (next start) would be the Breeders' Cup and the Remsen." Jockey Cornelio Velasquez added, "My horse is a very nice horse. We ran very well and I think that with more races, my horse will get even better. I was set up nicely behind horses and when I asked he came hard but (Uncle Mo) is very nice, a freak of a horse."
Right: Third place finisher I'm Steppin' It Up returns after the race. The 22-1 shot stalked the pace 3 wide early under jockey David Cohen but could not keep up with the eventual winner, finishing 3rd beaten 14 1/2 lengths. The Tony Pecoraro trainee improved his record to 1 win, 1 second, and 2 thirds in 5 starts, earning $72,850 for owner Roman Hill Farm.
A Z Warrior leads in the stretch
46-1 longest shot Coax Liberty battled for the lead with A Z Warrior down the backstretch through fractions of 22.87 and 46.25, with Joyful Victory stalking them third. Jockey Alan Garcia sent A Z Warrior to the front midway around the turn and into the lane through 3/4 in 1:10.58. A Z Warrior opened up a 4 length lead at the 1/8 pole, with favorite R Heat Lightning, 5th early, closing fast late. However, A Z Warrior easily held her off by 1 3/4 lengths late in a time of 1:35.68. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to Joyful Victory third.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 A Z Warrior Garcia 9.80 4.30 3.10 1 R Heat Lightning Velazquez 3.40 2.50 8 Joyful Victory Velasquez 3.00 Winning Time: 1:35.68 $2 Exacta 5-1 36.40 $2 Trifecta 5-1-8 91.00 $2 Superfecta 5-1-8-9 338.00Results Chart Past winners of the Frizette
Left: A Z Warrior takes her walk down Victory Lane. Brad Weisbord, racing manager for owner Zayat Stables said, "We leave these decisions up to Mr. Baffert, but he's been saying all along that she's a dirt filly. We think this filly is special and we look forward to running her in the Breeders' Cup."
Right: A Z Warrior in the winner's circle. John Terranova, who saddled her for trainer Bob Baffert added, "She's so classy and does everything the right way. Bob has liked her all along, and sent her here thinking she was going to excel on dirt. He sends us a lot of good ones, but this one is really special."
Left: A Z Warrior in the paddock before the race.
Right: A Z Warrior heads back to the barn after the race. Her jockey Alan Garcia said, "I knew the fractions weren't real fast, but she was very comfortable and relaxed in my hands. Turning for home, she really took off, but towards the end I said, 'We don't want to use her up for this one.' We wanted her to come back safe and sound and take the next step."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite R Heat Lightning in the paddock. Her trainer Todd Pletcher said, "She had a pretty tough trip. She took a left turn leaving the gate and was actually inside the gap by the chute. She recovered and put herself in a decent position but she was just sort of boxed in. The winner snuck away from her, but we were gaining on the end and galloped out past her. We just couldn't find room as early as we needed it. She finished well and I'm pleased with her effort." Jockey John Velazquez added, "By the time she got going the other horse already had 4 or 5 lengths on her. By the time I got her clear and running, it was too late for her."
Right: Third place finisher Joyful Victory in the post parade. The 3-1 second choice stalked the pace in 3rd early under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, but could not improve late finishing third beaten 5 1/4 lengths. The Tony Dutrow trainee improved her record to 1 win and 1 third in 2 starts, earning $65,100 for owner Fox Hill Farm.
Prince Will I Am takes the lead down the stretch in the Jamaica Handicap
29-1 Citrus Kid battled for the lead with 33-1 Two Notch Road for the first 3/4 mile through fractions of 24.93, 50.40, and 1:14.86 over the good turf course, with favorite Krypton stalking them in third. On the far turn, Citrus Kid pulled away from the field, opening up by 3 lengths in mid-stretch through a mile in 1:38.28. 10-1 Prince Will I Am, last early, came out 6 wide into the lane and closed with a rush down the center of the course to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:50.04. It was another 1/2 length back from pacesetter Citrus Kid to late-running Beau Choix third, while Krypton faded to finish 9th.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Prince Will I Am Lezcano 21.60 10.60 6.30 1 Citrus Kid Espinoza 21.00 10.40 3 Beau Choix Velasquez 4.10 Winning Time: 1:50.04 $2 Exacta 7-1 400.50 $2 Trifecta 7-1-3 2,564.00 $2 Superfecta 7-1-3-4 24,026.00Results Chart Past winners of the Jamaica
Left: Prince Will I Am walks down Victory Lane after the Jamaica Handicap.
Right: Prince Will I Am in the winner's circle with trainer Michelle Nihei. Nihei said, "(The lack of pace) was just terrifying, but it was just one of those days where everything was going his way. He's not taken one step wrong. If he was going to run a huge race, it was today. I told Jose that I thought he should put him in the race a little bit on the backside, but I said 'Jose, you know that turf course better than I do, so you choose. I'm just telling you what I think has to happen - he needs to be in contention somewhere early in the race, earlier than usual.' Jose came back and he said 'I lost a little ground, but I felt like we could make it up and I had him close enough that I was comfortable and the horse was comfortable.' This is the biggest win for me. Mr. and Mrs. Atkins are contemplating still looking at the Breeders' Cup as an option, but he is not nominated. We're looking at the 1 1/2 (Breeders' Cup Turf) and we're also looking at the Marathon on the dirt because he doesn't really seem to mind surface changes."
Left: Prince Will I Am heads in the paddock before the race. His jockey Jose Lezcano said, "On the backside, I knew the pace was slow, but I wasn't that far back. Then, when I was clear, he really responded. Before the race, Michelle told me to break, and wait to make my move, because when I did, he would give me a big kick, and he did."
Right: Second place finisher Citrus Kid heads to the starting gate. The 29-1 second longest shot led for 1 1/16 miles under jockey Jose Espinoza but was unable to hold off the winner late. The John Terranova trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 8 starts, earning $146,504 for owner Golden Goose Enterprises.
Left: Third place finisher Beau Choix heads to the starting gate. The 9-2 second choice raced in 7th early under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, came out 5 wide for the drive and closed well to get third beaten 1 3/4 lengths. The Barclay Tagg trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds in 9 starts, earning $154,800 for owners and breeders Belle Meadows Farm and Lael Stable.
Right: Ninth place finisher and beaten favorite Krypton in the post parade. His jockey Edgar Prado said, "I think that the soft going had something to do with his performance today. He broke well and he was very relaxed for me down the backside. I wasn't very happy, though, with the slow pace up front. Then when I asked him for run he gave me a little kick, but it wasn't consistent. The other horses were just running by so fast at the end." Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin added, "That was a slower pace than we're used to and Krypton just didn't fire at the end. It may be that the turf had a little give in the ground. We'll regroup."
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