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Friend Or Foe Romps in Empire Classic

Heavily favored Friend Or Foe returned to the winner’s circle Saturday afternoon with a front-running, stakes-record victory in the 35th running of the $200,000 Empire Classic for New York-breds, the centerpiece of New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

 

Trained by John Kimmel for Chester and Mary Broman, the 3-year-old Friends Lake colt grabbed the lead soon after the gates opened and cruised through unpressured fractions of 23.15, 46.79 and 1:10.39. Set down at the head of the lane by jockey Alex Solis, Friend Or Foe easily pulled away from his nine rivals and hit the wire five lengths in front, covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.94 over a fast track.

 

His time easily eclipsed the previous record of 1:48.00 set by Instant Friendship in 1997. From 1976 through 1994, the race was called the Empire Stakes for 2-year-olds going six furlongs.

 

“All along I’ve felt he is one of those horses who can give you an easy :22, :45 and keep going as long as you keep him in a rhythm,” said Solis, aboard the chestnut colt in a race for the first time. “I just wanted to put him in the race right away, break as sharp as we could, put him in the bit and let him do his own thing.”

 

Friend Or Foe, who was coupled in the wagering with the Broman’s Mine Over Matter, returned $4.60 for a $2 win bet to his backers in the crowd of 5,452 as he lifted his record to four wins from six starts.

 

Icabad Crane, whose awkward break left in him in last place at the start, rallied through the stretch to edge Wishful Tomcat for second, who was followed in turn by Ruffino, Manteca, Mine Over Matter, Giant Moon, Star of New York, Ibboyee, and Stormy’s Majesty.

 

Winner of his first three starts, including a maiden win in open company, a victory over  elders in a state-bred allowance, and the Mike Lee for 3-year-old state-breds at Belmont in June, Friend Or Foe next stepped up into open stakes company and finished fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. He then ran a rough-and-tumble sixth in the Grade 1 Travers on August 28, in which he suffered a puncture wound in his left foreleg that subsequently became infected.

 

“This is a good horse,” said Kimmel of Friend Or Foe, his first Empire Classic winner. “As he started widening at the eighth pole, I didn’t think anyone was going to catch him. If he stays healthy, I think he’s got a real nice future. He’s capable of running with any kind.”

 

Kimmel said the next start for Friend Or Foe could be the Grade 1, $250,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct on November 27.

 

“He’s pretty versatile, he can run seven-eighths to 1 1/8 miles,” said the trainer. “This horse has shown me now what he does in the mornings is no mirage, and that what he does is translating into being a serious horse on the racetrack.”


Six additional stakes for New York-breds also posted contentious renewals on Saturday afternoon at Belmont.

 

Favored You Go West Girl closed into tepid fractions to win going away by two lengths in the 30th running of the $125,000 Ticonderoga. While Chorus Music and Exclusive Scheme led the field through opening fractions of 25.15 and 49.64 on the inner turf course, jockey Jose Lezcano had You Go West Girl well-held in ninth. As the field turned for home, he guided the 6-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley to the outside for running room, and she kicked in late to mow down the field. Trained by Tom Proctor for Craig Bernick, she completed the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:49.32. Chorus Music and Exclusive Scheme held on for second and third, respectively.

 

“We’ve kept her pretty much in the New York-bred program all year, with the exception of a race or two,” Proctor said. “We were hoping she’d give a good account of herself, and if she did, we knew she’d be right there. I was a little nervous with 70 yards left!”

 

Meese Rocks put in a terrific front-running performance to take the 32nd running of the $125,000 Iroquois by 2 ¼ lengths as the 4-1 second choice. Sent to the lead from post position 10 under jockey Ramon Dominguez, the 5-year-old daughter of Rock and Roll set swift fractions of 22.50 and 45.91. Trained by Edward Barker for Henry, Jamie, and Joseph Terranova, Meese Rocks shook loose and widened her advantage at the top of the stretch, completing the seven furlongs over the main track in 1:23.64. R Betty Graybull came from the back of the pack to finish second, with My Dinah running third.

 

“I thought she was the best horse in the race,” Barker said “She’s easy to train, she’s a joy to be around, and we’ve had a ball. I know people have been saying she couldn’t get seven-eighths of a mile, but I knew she could as long as she switched leads, and Ramon got her to switch.”

 

Widest of all around the turn and into the stretch, Bandbox still scored a decisive 1 ¼-length score in the 17th running of the $100,000 Sleepy Hollow. The 2-year-old son of Tapit was ridden confidently by Dominguez after stumbling at the start, biding his time down the backstretch in seventh. The 3-5 favorite launched a five-wide bid as the field headed into the turn, picking off opponents one by one and striking the lead with a furlong left to run. He completed the seven furlongs over the main track in 1:24.38, with Luxury Appeal and Crea’s Law completing the trifecta. Trained by Rodney Jenkins for Hillwood Stable, Bandbox is pointing towards the $1 million Grade 3 Delta Jackpot on November 20 at Delta Downs.

 

“He stumbled a little bit at the start. As soon as he came back up, he was very relaxed for me and on the bridle,” Dominguez said. “I always felt like I had a lot of horse. When I chose to go around horses, I felt like I had much the best. Around the turn, he started to shy away from the others, but as soon as he was able to get ahead of them, he just relaxed for me, came forward, and did it pretty nicely.”  


With a final surge, Pocket Cowboys ran past the 6-5 favorite Straight Story in deep stretch to win the 32nd running of the $125,000 Mohawk by 1 ¼ lengths. Sent off as the 5-1 third choice, the 4-year-old Wild Event gelding tracked in third behind the fractions of 23.91 and 47.54 set by Straight Story, who had early company from longshot Midnight Billy. The favorite shook off the early challenge around the far turn, but didn’t have enough to hold off the late rally from Pocket Cowboys and jockey Edgar Prado, who completed the 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf course in 1:48.44. The winner is owned, trained, and was bred by Scott Schwartz, and picked up the second stakes win of his career. It was 3 ½ lengths back to Kutais in third.

 

“We’ve got the best of both worlds: the father’s [Wild Event] stamina and the mother’s [Lotsa Sprinkles] speed,” Schwartz said. “It worked out perfectly as we knew the favorite, Straight Story, would go for the lead. Somebody pressed him a little, and we got the trip. It worked out nicely.”

 

Form held in the 17th running of the $100,000 Maid of the Mist for juvenile fillies, as the 8-5 favorite Sentimental Lass set the early fractions and repelled a stretch bid from 8-5 second choice Saltamontes to register a length score. Trained by David Duggan for J Z B Racing Stable, LLC, the 2-year-old daughter of Freud led through splits of 22.83 and 46.41 under confident handling from jockey Rajiv Maragh. Saltamontes took a run at the leader coming into the stretch, but Sentimental Lass outfinished her opponent to complete the seven furlongs in 1:24.64. Floating Alone rounded out the trifecta.

 

“She’s got a very competitive nature and it showed coming down the lane,” Maragh said. “With the rail draw, we were committed to going to the lead. I wasn’t concerned with the 46 2/5 half; last time she went in 45 3/5 and was pulling away at the end, plus she was cruising with her ears up and she felt like she wasn’t running her hardest.”

 

In the 33rd running of the $125,000 Hudson for dirt sprinters, General Maximus, trained by John Terranova, parlayed a perfect stalking trip into an easy 1 ½-length victory. The 3-year-old Freud colt registered his first victory against older opponents and helped jockey Javier Castellano celebrate his 33rd birthday in style. Owned by Michael Imperio, Goldmark Farm, and Elizabeth Loftus, General Maximus returned $12.20 as the 5-1 third-choice, completing the six furlongs in 1:08.84. Longshots Be Bullish and Raynick’s Jet completed the trifecta, while even-money favorite Endless Circle finished sixth.

 

“In his last race it was unfortunate that he ended up way behind horses,” said Tonja Terranova, assistant to John Terranova. “He had to check a couple of times, but he still came running. We figured he could have won if he hadn’t encountered all the trouble. We are really happy for him.”

 

 

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