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Jockey Javier Castellano celebrates his win aboard Pine Island
The $250,000 Gazelle Stakes (G1) features 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles around one turn of Belmont Park's main track. Only six went to post in this prep race for the Breeders' Cup Distaff, with Pine Island sent off as the even-money favorite off her win in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last time out. In to challenge the heavy favorite were 2-1 second choice Bushfire, coming into the race off two consecutive Grade 1 wins in the Acorn and the Mother Goose, and 5-1 third choice Wild Fit, who hasn't won since the Del Mar Debutante last August and who was beaten 20 lengths in her last start.
Pine Island and Teammate duel down the stretch
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 Pine Island Castellano 4.10 2.60 2.10 4 Teammate Velasquez 4.80 3.90 3 Last Romance Velazquez 4.90 Winning Time: 1:48.93 $2 Exacta 5-4 15.60 $2 Trifecta 5-4-3 99.50
Owner Dinny Phipps leads Pine Island and a jubilant Javier Castellano down Victory Lane. Winning trainer Shug McGaughey said, "She hasn't missed a beat since the Alabama. I can't say I wasn't nervous bringing her back in three weeks off two 1 1/4 mile races. We were very pleased with her today. She's an old, hard-running, big, old, country kind of horse and she always gives her all. She's run six races, has four wins and two of them are Grade 1s. We'll sit and watch her. I might be more inclined to wait for the Breeders' Cup. I'll just have to let her tell me. My thinking of coming back here was trying to hook Bushfire off a layoff."
Pine Island in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "She stumbled in the first jump, (but) nothing bothers the filly. She's getting better and better. Today, right at the 3/8 pole, she was right behind the speed horses. When I asked her at the quarter-pole, vroom!"
Second place finisher Teammate in the post parade. Her owner and breeder Joseph Allen said, "Allen (Jerkens, trainer) has done a superb job with her. We've always liked her. I think she is getting better. We'll see how she comes out." Jockey Cornelio Velasquez added, "My filly ran real big today. The filly that beat me is real good. At the top of the stretch I had a lot of horse, and my filly ran good down the stretch. But the winner was too good."
Third place finisher Last Romance returns after the race.
Fifth place finisher and close second favorite Bushfire in the paddock before the race. Her trainer Eddie Kenneally said, "She got a little tired. She hadn't run in 10 weeks. Edgar (Prado) said she handled everything fine. We'll see how she comes out and make a decision." Edgar Prado added, "I thought she was relaxed down the backside. When I asked her for a little bit around the half-mile pole, I knew I was in trouble."
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