Derby Future pool 7
Vanderbilt & Ballston Spa
Vekoma takes his walk down Victory Lane after winning the Met Mile
On Independence Day Saturday, stakes action continued at Belmont Park with no spectators in attendance due to coronavirus restrictions. Conditions were excellent on Long Island for the 5 graded stakes, with partly cloudy sies and temperatures in the low 80's, the main track remained fast and the turf courses firm.
The feature race on Independence Day was the $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1), a one-turn mile over the main track for older horses looking for automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) runner-up McKinzie was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 8 off his win in the Triple Bend (G2) after finishing 11th in the Saudi Cup. In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Vekoma, winner of the Carter Handicap (G1), and 7-2 third choice Code of Honor, winner of the Westchester (G3).
Jockey Javier Castellano sent Vekoma to the front exiting the chute and he set easy fractions of 22.73, 45.87, and 1:09.57 while pressed by 20-1 Warrior's Charge and stalked by 13-1 Network Effect. Into the lane Vekoma continued to lead through 7f in 1:21.12, and easily held off Network Effect to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:32.88, just 0.64 seconds off the track record. It was another neck back to late-running Code of Honor third, while favorite McKinzie failed to rally and checked in 5th beaten 2 lengths.
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Left: Vekoma in the winner's circle. Winning trainer George Weaver said, "I was happy with our trip around the backside. I knew we had natural speed, and no one really went with us so I was happy with the fact that he was there. At the quarter pole, it seemed like all comers were coming and I thought 'Man, does he have anything left in the tank or not?'. When they got to the eighth pole and I saw him rebreak and keep going, I got excited. It was fun. I knew the outside horses liked to show speed, but at the end of the day I thought if we broke well, they might just be caught chasing."
Right: Vekoma heads back to the barn in his new winner's blanket.
Left: Vekoma heads out to the track before the race. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, The way I handicapped the race, I thought I would sit behind (Mr. Freeze and Warrior's Charge) and then go around them and get it done. But he broke so well out of the gate, I didn't want to take away anything that comes easy. I dictated the pace in a nice way and he took it from there. They came after me at the 3/8 pole, but he's such a great horse and such an honest horse. The further he went the stronger he got."
Right: Second place finisher Network Effect returns after the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "Perfect trip, I can't complain. I got a good trip and the horse ran big today on a dry track. They went a little fast. Vekoma is a nice horse, we just got beat. We were second best today."
Left: Third place finisher Code of Honor heads out of the tunnel before the race. Jockey John Velazquez said, "They didn't go as fast up front as I thought they would; 23 and 45 for these horses is slow. The winner is a nice horse but it was a little too short for him."
Right: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite McKinzie heads out of the tunnel before the race. The Bob Baffert trainee has a record of 8 wins, 6 seconds, and 0 thirds in 17 starts, earning $3,453,560 for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman.
Immediately after the Met Mile, a field of 8 older horses contested the $400,000 Manhattan Stakes (G1) over 1 1/4 miles on the inner turf, with the winner earning an invitation to the 2020 Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse in November. Charles Whittingham (G2) third place finisher Rockemperor was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 9-4 second choice Instilled Regard, winner of the Fort Marcy (G2), and 9-2 fourth choice Devamani, 2nd in the Fort Marcy.
Jockey Jose Ortiz sent 11-1 Cross Border to the lead first time by and he set slow fractions of 24.56, 50.46, 1:15.93, and 1:39.88 while pressed by 23-1 Channel Maker and stalked by Rockemperor. Turning for home Cross Border continued to lead through 9f in 1:51.38 before tiring. Instilled Regard, 5th early under Irad Ortiz Jr., came out 4 wide for room and rallied to win by a neck over Rockemperor in 2:02.59. It was another 1/2 length back to 8-1 Sadler's Joy third.
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Left: Instilled Regard in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown (who trains the first two finishers) said, Both jockeys did a great job and both horses responded super. It's unfortunate one of them had to lose. In the end, Instilled Regard just made the last move of the chess match. I'm so proud of the horse. He keeps getting better. He had a great post and Irad took advantage of it. He definitely gets along with this horse. He wants to get to know the horses and really works together with us on improving them."
Right: Instilled Regard returns after the race. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "His mind is getting better and better every time he runs on the grass. With this horse, he does everything you want. I like that. I can use it to get in position and he comes back to me so well. He saved all the energy until the end. When I asked him for it, he gave it. I had to work so hard but when I tipped him out, he responded so well. I knew I had a chance to get there, and he got there on time."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Rockemperor heads out to the track before the race. Jockey John Velazquez said, "He was keen. He was strong on the turn. He ran well, I just think he was a little too keen in the first part."
Right: Third place finisher Sadler's Joy returns after the race. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "Unfortunately for him, he was at a disadvantage going a mile and a quarter with no pace. He was closing very well. I was not disappointed at all in the horse. He always tries and one day, we're going to catch up."
Closing out the card of racing was the $200,000 Suburban Stakes (G2) for older horses going 1 1/4 miles on the main track. Oaklawn Handicap (G2) fourth place finisher Tacitus was sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the field of 6 over 11-4 Mr. Buff, 2nd in the Commentator Stakes, and 7-2 Moretti, winner of the Flat Out Stakes.
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche sent 57-1 longest shot Parsimony to the lead on the clubhouse turn and he set fractions of 24.68, 48.32, 1:10.82, and 1:34.98 while pressed by Mr. Buff and stalked by Tacitus. Turning for home Parsimony and Mr. Buff tired as Tacitus inherited the lead through 9f in 1:47.11. Kept to task by John Velazquez, Tacitus drew off to win by 8 3/4 lengths over Moretti in 1:59.51. It was another neck back to pacesetter Parsimony third.
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Left: Tacitus in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bill Mott said, "We've put a lot into this horse. We took him to some big races and he's run some good races. We took him half way around the world earlier this year looking for something like that (winning effort) in Saudi and in Dubai before they canceled the (Dubai World Cup). We had a couple bullet works with him and now you're going to see them all the time."
Right: Tacitus returns after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "He was going comfortable the whole way. We had a little pressure in the first part of the race and little by little we kept reaching back and reaching back. I just wanted to be a little further back. Once we passed the 5/8 pole, I put my hands down and he got into a great rhythm. From there on, I knew he was comfortable and in a position to win."
Left: Second place finisher Moretti heads out to the track before the race. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "Beautiful trip. That's just where we wanted to be; behind the two speeds. The race set up beautifully. We were just second-best today. Tacitus is a great horse."
Right: Third place finisher Parsimony returns after the race. The Doug O'Neill trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 7 seconds, and 4 thirds in 24 starts, earning $330,474 for owner Reddam Racing.
The $150,000 Poker Stakes (G3) featured a field of 8 older horses going 1 mile on the Widener turf. Allowance winner Value Proposition was sent off as the 11-4 favorite over 3-1 Valid Point, winner of the Secretariat (G1) last August but 10th in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) last out, and 4-1 Got Stormy, 4th in the Beaugay (G3).
Jockey Jose Lezcano sent 7-1 Dream Friend to the lead out of the chute through fractions of 24.50 and 49.28 while pressed by Got Stormy and stalked by Valid Point. On the far turn Dream Friend tired allowing Got Stormy to inherit the lead through 3/4 in 1:13.07 and 7f in 1:24.32. 5-1 fourth choice Social Paranoia, 7th early under Jose Ortiz, rallied 5 wide and outfinished 6-1 Seismic Wave to win by a length in 1:36.30. It was another 1 3/4 length back to favorite Value Proposition third.
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Left: Social Paranoia in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "He's a very, very solid horse and he always shows up. The only time he didn't fire was in the Fort Marcy last time out and that was a tactical error on our part. I thought we were a tick further back than I thought we would be and they were going a tick slower than I had hoped. I thought we made a mistake last time in trying to use him a little bit early on to get into position from the outside post going 1 1/8. He showed us in his first start back at Gulfstream that he just wants to settle and make one run. Jose executed the plan very well and it was a good performance."
Right: Social Paranoia returns after the race. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "I knew they were going slow but he was very relaxed. When we made our move, I had to go wide because they were going so slow. I knew everyone was going to have a really good run to the end but when I passed the eighth pole, he was going really nice. He put his head down and rolled home. He went a mile nicely with a way hotter pace than today. I think the soft ground helped a little bit today."
Left: Second place finisher Seismic Wave in the post parade. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "He broke well and then they got me right away, so I lost some position. It was fine but there was a slow pace and I had to make an early move. He finished really well. For a second, I thought we were going to keep going, but the other horse got me."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Value Proposition returns after the race. The Chad Brown trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $153,000 for owner Klaravich Stables.
Kicking off the Saturday stakes quintet was the $100,000 Victory Ride Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track. Last year's Spinaway (G1) and Frizette (G1) runner-up Frank's Rockette was sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the field of 5 over 7-2 Up in Smoke, winner of the Game Face Stakes, and 4-1 Center Aisle, a debut winner but 5th last out in allowance company.
Jockey John Velazquez sent Frank's Rockette to the lead through fractions fo 23.11, 45.52, and 1:08.29 while pressed by 13-1 Reagan's Edge and stalked by Center Aisle. Turning for home Frank's Rockette continued to lead through 3/4 in 1:08.29. Reagan's Edge attempted to close but Frank's Rockette held her off to win by a head in 1:14.47. It was another 3/4 lengthh back to Center Aisle third.
Full results chart
Left: Frank's Rockette in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bill Mott said, "When you looked at the race on paper, it looked like we'd be the clear speed and probably be a length or two in front on the backside. There was a horse hanging right with her. She didn't break quite as sharp as I've seen her in the past, but she was able to open up a bit when she turned for home and had enough courage to hold them off. She had to work at it a little bit. It was not an easy win. The Test is a great race. We've won it a couple of times and it's a very important race for 3-year-old fillies. If she's doing well, I'd like to give her a try in there."
Right: Frank's Rockette in the post parade. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "She broke well enough, but not as quick as I thought she would. Little by little, she got into the battle and I let her do what she wanted to do. At the end, she put in a really good fight. At the wire, I thought I had it. But right before the wire, I wasn't sure we were going to hold on."
Left: Second place finisher Reagan's Edge returns after the race. Trainer Cherie DeVaux said, "She's just got a lot of fight in her. It's so nice to have a horse like this in the barn that goes out and just tries every time we ask her. She just played the break. In her maiden, she broke on top and went with it. Jose [Lezcano] did the right thing. He didn't take it away from her, he didn't try to get her to do something else. I'm happy with him, he made a really good decision."
Right: Third place finisher Center Aisle heads out of the paddock before the race. The Chad Brown trainee improved her record to 1 win, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 3 starts, earning $40,230 for owner OXO Equine LLC.
Left: Mike Smith checks his messages in the tunnel under the grandstand.
Right: Mike Smith and John Velazquez chill between races.
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