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
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
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
“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.