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King Kreesa Crowned Poker Champ

Belmont Park
King Kreesa enjoyed an uncontested lead as he went wire-to-wire under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to capture Thursday’s 28th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Poker, the Independence Day feature at Belmont Park.


First out of the gate, the 4-year-old New York-bred rolled through an opening quarter-mile in 23.81 seconds and a half in 47.19 over a firm Widener turf course, with Howe Great tracking in second two lengths back and favored Data Link well off the rail in fourth. Rounding the turn, King Kreesa’s pursuers inched closer, but he spun into the stretch two lengths in front and was never threatened as he crossed the wire in 1:33.65 for a mile.


“The trainer [Jeremiah Englehart] did a really good job with that horse,” said Ortiz. “He’s a New York-bred winning in open company and I think they have a very good team all together, the stable.”


It was the second straight victory and first in a graded stakes for the King Cugat gelding, who employed similar tactics to win the Kingston for state-breds on June 1. He is 3-2-1 in six starts over Belmont Park turf, including victories in the London Company overnight stakes and the Spectacular Bid division of the New York Stallion Stakes in 2012.


“We were hoping for a repeat of the Kingston, with nice easy fractions, and that’s what we got,” said winning owner Gerald Kresa. “We love Irad. It’s a thrill for [King Kreesa] to get his first graded stakes win; he’d been close several times. We’ll probably look next at the Fourstardave [Grade 2, $500,000, August 10, Saratoga]. We’ll see how he comes out of this one.”


Sent off at 9-2, King Kreesa returned $11 for a $2 win bet. Now 5-3-2 from 14 lifetime starts, he has earned $434,370.


Howe Great held on for second, 1 ½ lengths in front of Big Screen, with 3-5 favorite Data Link a head back in fourth. Lubash, Shkspeare Shaliyah and Upgrade completed the order of finish.




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