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Air Support Upsets Soldat in Pilgrim

Kept in striking position throughout, Air Support took over in deep stretch and edged clear in the final yards to claim a 1 ½-length victory over favored Soldat and Deciphering Dreams in Sunday’s 32nd running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Pilgrim at Belmont Park. In doing so, he also earned himself an automatic starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

 

Well-held while running on the inside in fourth as Dual Citizen led the field through an opening quarter in 25.97 and a half-mile in 51.11, Air Support swung three-wide at the top of the stretch and dueled briefly between Deciphering Dreams and Soldat, bumping twice with the favorite before edging away.

 

His final time for the 1 1/16 miles over yielding turf was 1:47.87.

 

A son of Smart Strike, Air Support exited a strong fourth-place effort behind Soldat in the Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga Race Course a month ago, and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey felt the colt was likely to move forward off that race.

 

“[The course in Saratoga] was like a conveyor belt and I thought he ran a good race, you know, he just couldn’t catch up it was so speed-conducive,” McGaughey said. “The winner that day [Soldat] showed he was a nice horse, he was second today, so not taking anything away there, but I thought if I got him back to Belmont we’d catch a little bit fairer track and we obviously did. When we got towards the end, I thought he was going on and pulling away the way I was hoping.”

 

Bred and owned by Stuart Janney, III, Air Support broke his maiden at the Pilgrim distance in Saratoga on August 13, his first start on turf. His record now stands at 2-0-0 from four starts with earnings of $127,100. He returned $12 for a $2 win bet in the Pilgrim.

 

“He felt really comfortable the whole time,” said winning jockey Rajiv Maragh. “With a little give in the ground today, he handled it perfectly. He was basically floating over the turf course. All the way I felt like I had a lot of horsepower and I was just waiting to unleash it. When I asked him, he just kicked on.”

 

McGaughey said he would certainly consider sending Air Support to the Juvenile Turf, and McLaughlin said today’s runner-up finish was not likely to alter the Breeders’ Cup plans for Soldat.

 

“You never know with this kind of ground how they’re going to perform, and at least he performed well and handled it,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll probably continue on [to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf].”

 

Favorite Hour was fourth and Liondrive, Dual Citizen and The Flying Whizzer completed the order of finish. Powhatan County and Running Tap were scratched.

 

 

 

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