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Edgar Prado celebrates his win aboard Strong Contender in the Dwyer Stakes (G2)
Belmont Park celebrated the Independence Day holiday with four stakes races on July 3rd and 4th, including a Grade 2 race each day. The headline event on Tuesday was the $150,000 Dwyer Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds. Short fields have been the norm all weekend and this was no exception, with just six entering the starting gate for this 1 1/16 mile event around one turn of the main track. Wood Memorial 3rd place finisher and Kentucky Derby last-place finisher Keyed Entry was sent off as the 9-5 favorite over 2-1 second choice Strong Contender, third in both the Blue Grass and the Peter Pan. Snow Chief Stakes winner Da Stoops shipped in from California and was the 5-2 third choice.
Keyed Entry ducked in at the start but quickly went to the front for jockey
John Velazquez, setting the pace along the rail through a quarter in 23.39 and
a half in 46.58, while longshots Dontfearthereaper and Regent Spirit stalked
the pace a length behind. Entering the turn, Keyed Entry tired and dropped
from contention, as Strong Contender, who had settled in fourth on a
ground-saving trip, found running room along the rail and surged to the front,
going 3/4 in 1:11.84. Through the stretch, Strong Contender drew away under
a hand-ride to win by 7 3/4 lengths at the line, easily holding off the
late-running 10-1 shot Doc Cheney. The running time was 1:43.24 over a track
rated "fast" but which had been affected by intermittent rain all afternoon.
It was another 5 3/4 lengths back from Doc Cheney to Da Stoops in third, while
favorite Keyed Entry finished last.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Strong Contender Prado 6.20 3.40 2.80 6 Doc Cheney Coa 7.30 4.10 5 Da Stoops Gomez 3.20 Winning Time: 1:45.24 $2 Exacta 4-6 34.40 $2 Trifecta 4-6-5 138.50
Strong Contender in the winner's circle with trainer John Ward Jr. in the gray suit on the left. Ward said, "Edgar (Prado) has always thought a lot of this horse. He had the opportunity to get back on him after what happened to Barbaro. We're going to have to make some serious decisions about our three, three-year-olds and what's next. His first race at Gulfstream, he ran similar to how he did today. He just loomed and on the turn, he blew by. This is probably a style that is more suitable for him. Just laying back and not being in contention early. I wasn't concerned that he moved too soon. Edgar got up in the hole pretty easy. He let him take charge and let this horse use his big, long stride."
Winning jockey Edgar Prado said, "Today, he really performed. He's the kind of
horse that sometimes shows speed and sometimes doesn't. He is such a big horse
and he covers so much ground. Around the turn, the hole opened. I said, `If he
is going to go through, I'll let him go.' When I rode him at Gulfstream, I
really didn't have to shake him up. Today, I wanted to see what I had and I
shook him up. I like the feeling he gave me."
Second place finisher Doc Cheney crosses the finish line. Eibar Coa, jockey of runner-up Doc Cheney said, "I broke and was watching everyone. I knew he had a shot because he was so comfortable. For a while, I thought I could win the race, but the winner just pulled away." Trainer Nick Zito added, "Doc Cheney ran a good race. He's not as big as the winner. The winner is a heck of a horse."
Third place finisher Da Stoops in the post parade.
Beaten favorite and last place finisher Keyed Entry leaves the paddock for the post parade. His trainer Todd Pletcher, who won 4 other races on the card, said, "He didn't get away very cleanly and had to rush up. He stopped a little sooner than he should have. He probably needs a little vacation. He's trained well and acted well, but he is obviously not himself these last couple of races." Jockey John Velazquez added, "He broke bad. He got into a position where he was comfortable, ran 3/8 of a mile and that was it. He had no fight at all, and he is usually a fighter."
Stormy Kiss was quickest out of the gate and battled with Khalila to her
outside down the backstretch through quick fractions of 22.50 and 45.58.
Entering the stretch, Stormy Kiss continued to hold the lead but tired inside
the 3/16 pole. Favored Behaving Badly, who had stalked the pacesetters in
third out wide, rallied through the stretch to prevail by 1/2 a length over
late-running Swap Fliparoo, in a time of 1:09.96. It was 1 1/4 length back to
pacesetter Stormy Kiss, and 4 1/2 more to Khalila in last.
Results chart from DRF
Behaving Badly in the winner's circle. Her jockey Garrett Gomez said, "She sat off the pace before. It looks like she is always on the lead, but she sat off a bit. She is very tractable. She's a pure class filly who does everything right. My job is to make her most comfortable. When I found those other two had out-footed her a little bit, I asked her to pick it up a little bit. She wasn't real happy, so I let her re-coup herself and took her outside for a clear run."
A wide view of the finish showing both the winner, Behaving Badly, and second place finisher Swap Fliparoo. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "I just left it up to (jockey) Garrett Gomez. You need to help her for the first few jumps out of the gate, and after that you can do what you want with her. I hated her in the one-hole, but it worked out because he was able to get her outside. It was an exciting race and she's a beautiful mare. I'm going to see how she comes out of it before we find a spot. She loves Del Mar."
Out of Gwedda in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "When you're a big favorite like that, you always fear something going wrong at the start. Luckily, he was good enough to overcome it. He's a pretty quick colt and with a cleaner break, probably would have been right on the lead." Jockey John Velazquez added, "He broke and the second jump, he just disappeared. He got up, I gave him a little slap and he just started running. I just sat against him and he responded. I didn't have to beat him up or anything."
Miss Shop in the winner's circle.
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