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
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
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.