Odds-on favorite Lunar Victory outkicked a game Saratoga Snacks
in a dramatic stretch duel and hit the wire 1 ¼ lengths in front to take
Empire Classic, the centerpiece of New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park.
Carrying the colors of Juddmonte Farms – which earlier in the
day at Ascot Racecourse saw its homebred Frankel close out his career
with a perfect 14-for-14 record –
Lunar Victory raced in midpack as Saratoga Snacks carried the field of
eight New York-breds through an opening half mile in 46.61 seconds. The
5-year-old son of Speightstown drew alongside the pacesetter on the turn
and the two straightened for home in tandem,
with Lunar Victory prevailing after a spirited tussle to the final
“[Lunar Victory] broke really good and then I just tried to
settle him down and relax because I knew there would be a little speed
in the race,” said winning jockey
Junior Alvarado. “He has so much class, though, turning for home I just
tried to stay away from [Saratoga Snacks] and he gave me a nice kick at
Lunar Victory’s time for the 1 1/8-mile race was 1:49.70 over
the “good” main track as he extended his American record to 6-2-0 in
eight starts for Hall of Fame trainer
Bill Mott, who earned his first victory in the race, one of seven
stakes on the card for New York-breds.
“[Juddmonte] is still celebrating Frankel, I believe,” said Mott
with a smile. “You know what, they pay attention to all of them, so I’m
sure they’re happy to have this
The 4-5 favorite, Lunar Victory returned $3.60 for a $2 win bet
to his backers in the crowd of 7,095, and extended his career record to
7-4-2 from 16 starts.
The 3-year-old Saratoga Snacks, who saw his four-race win streak
for owner Bill Parcells come to an end, finished 6 ½ lengths ahead of
Sailmate, who was followed home
by Johannesburg Smile, Fiddlers Afleet, Bigger Is Bettor, Haldane, and
Willet opened the day’s stakes menu with an 8-1 upset of the $150,000
Iroquois for fillies and mares, powering through the middle of the stretch and going on to a 9 ¼-length victory over Miss Valentine.
Reserved in fifth by jockey Rajiv Maragh as 3-2 favorite Agave
Kiss led the field through opening fractions of 22.63 and 45.59, Willet
kicked into high gear when given
her cue at the top of the stretch and cruised under the wire in 1:23.28
for the seven furlongs over the muddy track, later upgraded to good.
“In the early part of the race I was a little worried because it
seemed like she wasn’t quite getting hold of the track, but in the end
she just took off,” said Maragh
of the 4-year-old Willet, who returned $19.20 for a $2 win bet as she
earned her first victory in three starts this year.
Trainer Jimmy Iselin, who co-owns the Jump Start filly with
Charlotte Assoulin and Eli Gindi, said Willet most likely will make her
next start in the Grade 2, one-mile
Go for Wand Handicap on November 23 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
In the first of two featured juvenile races, even-money favorite
Weekend Hideaway earned his second stakes victory, taking command at
the top of the stretch and going
on to a 2 ½-length win over longshot pacesetter Saint Arthur and 12
others in the $125,000
Bertram F. Bongard.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, the Speightstown colt stayed right
behind Saint Arthur through opening fractions of 22.41 and 46.12
seconds. Engaging the front-runner on the
turn, Weekend Hideaway poked a nose in front straightening for home and
was never challenged as he hit the wire in 1:24.59 for the seven
The victory was the third in five starts for Weekend Hideaway,
who was bred by Flying Zee Stables and carries the colors of Red and
Black Stable. He returned $4.10 for
a $2 win wager.
“This has a lot of meaning to me more than just winning this
race because [the late Carl Lizza of Flying Zee Stables and I] bred all
these horses,” said winning trainer
Phil Serpe. “Fortunately, Mike Hoffman of Red and Black Stable stepped
up and bought four of the yearlings [at the dispersal sale]. This is one
Mine Over Matter, eighth in the 2011 Empire Classic, found the $150,000
Hudson more to his liking
as he rallied from midpack to take the six-furlong race by a length,
giving jockey Ramon Dominguez his first of three stakes wins on the day.
Racing behind cover on the far turn, Mine Over Matter found a
seam in upper stretch and quickened when asked, edging past 3-5 favorite
Saginaw, who held second by a neck over Shrewd One.
“Initially I was laying a little bit closer than what I was
envisioning,” said Dominguez. “I thought they would have run away from
me a little bit more, but I was happy
with the fact that he was relaxed where he was. Around the
three-eighths pole, when I had to ask him a little bit to save my spot,
he jumped onto the bridle. Right then and there I realized that I had a
lot of horse, and sure enough when I angled out turning
for home he finished up pretty nicely.”
Mine Over Matter, a
Chester and Mary Broman homebred trained by Mike Hushion, returned $15 as the 6-1 third choice and completed the distance in 1:10.20.
Focusing on sprint races this year, Mine Over Matter won the Fabersham in April at Aqueduct and had twice finished third to
Saginaw in a pair of New York-bred stakes. The 5-year-old entered the
Hudson off a fourth in the Clever Electrician on August 26 at
Saratoga. In seven starts this year, he is 2-1-2.
Heavily favored Hessonite successfully defended her title in the $175,000
splitting rivals with a furlong to go and going on to a 3 ¾-length
victory over Shakeira in the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares over
a yielding turf course.
Ridden by Dominguez, the 4-year-old Freud filly ran seventh as
Wholelottashakin towed the field of 12 fillies and mares through a half
mile in 49.61 and three quarters
in 1:15.80. Behind a wall of horses turning for home, Hessonite found
room between rivals with a furlong to go and quickly pulled clear for
her fourth win in her past five starts.
“I felt that one way or another, I was confident she would find a
way through, and she did,” said Dominguez of Hessonite, who carries the
colors of William Punk, Jr.
and Philip DiLeo. “Honest to God – and I’m not just saying this because
she won the race, I’ve been saying it for a while – she’s one of my
all-time favorite horses to ride.”
The 2-5 favorite, Hessonite returned $2.70 for a $2 win bet as
she extended her 2012 record to 4-2-0 from eight starts, including
victories in the John Hettinger, Yaddo
and Irish Linnet stakes.
“What can I say? A really nice filly,” said winning trainer
David Donk. “I had a lot of confidence in Ramon … they’re a great team.”
Overlooked at 10-1, Merrylegs Farm’s Matchmadeinheaven ran her
record to 3-for-3 with a come-from-behind victory over 11 other juvenile
fillies in the $125,000
Joseph A. Gimma.
Running in the back of the pack through an opening quarter mile
in 23.31 and a half in 47.81, the homebred daughter of Utopia found her
best stride when taken to the
outside approaching the quarter pole. With an explosive burst of speed,
she outsprinted the late-closing Agilion through the final yards and
hit the wire three-quarters of a length in front.
Her time for the seven furlong was 1:26.34.
“She’s still a baby, and every horse that came to her she was
backing up, backing up,” said jockey Jose Lezcano of Matchmadeinheaven,
who returned $23.60 for a $2 win
bet. “When I got to the quarter pole, I swung out and she took off like
she was breaking from the gate. She’s a very nice filly and she’ll get
better with more racing.”
Dominguez completed the hat trick in the afternoon’s final race,
guiding Unbridled Command through an opening along the rail on the turn
and onto a 6 ¾-length victory
in the $175,000 McMahon of
Trained by Tom Bush for Lakland farm, the 3-year-old Unbridled
Command was off alertly and settled readily behind Karakorum Legend, who
was prompted by Strong Impact
through fractions of 25.16 and 50.91 over the yielding turf course.
Asked for run by Dominguez approaching the quarter pole, Unbridled
Command slipped inside the top two to emerge with the lead at the top of
the stretch and steadily widened his advantage to
He completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.02.
“He was just floating on top of the soft ground,” said Dominguez
of the gray colt. “He didn’t mind it at all. When he saw an opening on
the rail, he didn’t hesitate
It was the fourth straight victory for the Master Command colt,
who had earned his first stakes win against open company in the Grade 3
Saranac on September 2 at Saratoga
Race Course. Overall, he is 5-1-2 from nine starts in 2012.
“If he’s healthy and nothing’s amiss, we haven’t ruled out
running him in the Hollywood Derby [Grade 1, November 25],” said Bush of
Unbridled Command, who returned $7.,30
as the 5-2 second choice in the field of nine. “He’s just a horse that
continues to move forward, and it’s exciting.”