Political Force with Cornelio Velasquez up heads for the winner's circle
It was a "grey" day on Saturday at Belmont Park but not because of the weather. Grey horses swept the two Grade 1 stakes races under sunny skies, before an on-track crowd of just 7,116. The main event was the $400,000 Suburban Handicap (G1) for older horses going 1 1/4 miles on the main track. A field of six went to the gate with Metropolitan Handicap winner Corinthian sent off as the 3-2 favorite making his first attempt stretching out to ten furlongs. In to challenge were 2-1 second choice Fairbanks, winner of the Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita in his last start, and 3-1 third choice Hesanoldsalt, coming into this race off of four consecutive runner-up finishes including the Birdstone Stakes last out.
Down the stretch with Political Force and Fairbanks battling it out
Fairbanks was hustled to the front right away and opened up a 2-length lead after a quarter in 24.29, before he was joined by Hesanoldsalt in a battle up front. The pair got the half in 47.53, 3/4 in 1:10.69, and the mile in 1:34.90 before Hesanoldsalt tired and dropped from contention to eventually finish fifth. 5-1 fourth choice Political Force, who saved ground the whole way and stalked the pace in fourth down the backstretch, split horses on the turn and closed on Fairbanks on the far outside, collaring the pacesetter with 3/16 to go and drawing clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 2:00.50 over a fast track, drifting out for most of the stretch run. It was another 2 lengths back to 52-1 longest shot Malibu Moonshine in fourth. Favorite Corinthian raced close to the pace wide throughout and tired late, finishing last.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Political Force Velasquez 12.00 4.70 4.50 5 Fairbanks Migliore 3.50 4.50 3 Malibu Moonshine Hill 10.60 Winning Time: 2:00.50 $2 Exacta 1-5 49.60 $2 Trifecta 1-5-3 445.50Results Chart
Political Force takes his walk down Victory Lane. His jockey Cornelio Velasquez said, "He ran really good. I put him in good position and then I followed (Fairbanks). At the quarter pole, I had a lot of horse. When I asked him for run, he passed (Fairbanks). He has a lot of ability."
Political Force. His trainer Allen Jerkens said, "He was getting late. He always lugs in, so I hope nothing's wrong with him. At least he got his Grade 1. We'll rest him up now. Maybe we'll try the Woodward, give him a little rest now and point for that. The Whitney, I would think we would skip that. He's never been a terrific Saratoga horse, but he's never been this good anyway. If you want to think big, we'll probably look for two more races and then the Breeders' Cup. You've gotta think big."
Left: Second place finisher Fairbanks in the post parade. His jockey Richard Migliore said, "He ran his butt off today. We got comfortable on the lead, but they came after me early. But it took the starch out of the horses that were nagging at him, then we would do a little more and they would have to fight to keep up. If they left us alone until the five-eighths pole, it might have been a different outcome.
Right: Third place finisher Malibu Moonshine returns after the race.
Last place finisher and beaten favorite Corinthian returns after the race. His jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "He laid his life down last time (in the Met Mile), but today he just wasn't up to it. I can't even exaggerate. He didn't just slow down, his head came up in the air and said, 'Not today, I'm just not up to it.' I banged on him a couple of times, but it was like spanking on dead wood; it wasn't there. It's unfortunate, because I thought we stole the first quarter, then I just let him engage, but he wasn't up to the task."
Octave and Lady Joanne battle down the stretch.
The co-feature on Saturday was the $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles around one turn of the main track. Just four entered this event, with Octave sent off as the 3-5 favorite despite coming into the race off 5 consecutive runner-up finishes, the last being in the Kentucky Oaks behind stablemate Rags to Riches. Dogwood Stakes winner Lady Joanne entered this race with 3 straight wins and was sent off as the 2-1 second choice on the board.
26-1 longest shot Bold Assurance was rushed to the front exiting the chute and was 2 lengths clear of Lady Joanne after a quarter in a quick 23.53, while Octave sat just a length behind her. Bold Assurance continued to lead down the backstretch, getting the half in 46.35 as Lady Joanne closed the gap to just 1/2 a length entering the turn. On the turn, Bold Assurance faded to last as Lady Joanne inherited the lead through 3/4 in 1:09.94. However, Octave was gaining ground three-wide and joined Lady Joanne inside the 3/16 pole. She gained a 1/2 length lead with a furlong to go and held off Lady Joanne to prevail by the same margin in 1:47.19. It was a long 7 3/4 lengths back to 4-1 Boca Grande in third, while pacesetter Bold Assurance was another 38 1/2 lengths back in last.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Octave Velazquez 3.20 2.10 3 Lady Joanne Borel 2.60 4 Boca Grande Castellano Winning Time: 1:47.19 $2 Exacta 1-3 5.80Results Chart
Octave takes her walk down Victory Lane. Her jockey John Velazquez said, "She ran really good. For a four-horse field, it was a solid field. I knew I was going to have to be right with (Lady Joanne) and I was hoping my horse would have enough left, which she did. I didn't want to be too far behind (Lady Joanne) to make sure I was going to put pressure on her and it worked out good for me."
Octave in the winner's circle. Her trainer Todd Pletcher said, "That was a big race and she's a deserving winner. She's had a Grade 1 coming for a while, so it was great for her to do it. We thought Bold Assurance would go to the lead and we wanted to keep close tabs on Lady Joanne. Johnny did a nice job to get her outside."
Left: Second place finisher Lady Joanne in the walking ring. Her jockey Calvin Borel said, "She ran a hell of a race. I can't fault her. We figured (Bold Assurance) would get the lead and we'd sit right behind her. When we turned for home, (John Velazquez) opened up a good length and a half, but my horse kept digging in and came back to her, but I can't fault her. She ran a good race and she'll step up to the plate next time." Her trainer Carl Nafzger said, "I was very happy with the ride and very happy with the race. You don't run away from good horses, you either got to beat them or you can't beat them. We couldn't beat Octave today. Our filly came coming back and she was coming back at the wire again. Octave is a Grade 1 filly and we had to step up and see if we could run that."
Right: Third place finisher Boca Grande returns after the race.
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