The holiday season arrived at Belmont Park early
this year as Christmas for Liam kicked clear of seven opponents to break his
maiden by 4 3/4 lengths Friday and become the ninth horse featured in the New
York Watch series (http://www.nyra.com/nywatch/Bel_2010.html),
which shines the spotlight on promising colts and fillies that have recently
cleared the maiden and allowance ranks at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, or
Saratoga Race Course.
Debuting at Gulfstream Park on March 27, Christmas for Liam was pinched
back at the break, made a steady rally on the far turn to offer a challenge at
the top of the stretch, and flattened out late to finish third by 3 ¼ lengths.
The Edward P. Evans homebred received a much cleaner trip here at Belmont as he settled in fourth
up the lengthy backstretch run. He made a similar wide move to vie for the lead
turning for home, but this time had a much stronger closing punch, drawing off
to easily account for his stablemate, Mine That Bird’s younger
half-brother, Brother Bird. The final time for one mile was a brisk 1:36.01.
“He broke pretty sharply and we had a nice pace in front of
us,” said winning rider David Cohen. “They had him well prepared
today, and I just swung him out at the top of the lane. It made my job very
easy. He finished up very nice, and galloped out well. I definitely think he
can handle more distance, if that’s what they ask of him.”
Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, was happy with how
the sophomore stalked the pace and spurted away when asked.
“With however he came out of the gate, we were going to let him
find a spot, wherever that was,” said Thomas. “He’s still a
maturing horse. With the way he ran, it looked like he was just finding his
best stride towards the latter part of the race. It was probably the toughest
maiden race we’ve had in New
York this year.”
Christmas for Liam is from the lone crop of the late 2005 Horse of the
Year and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Saint Liam, and is out of
the Gone West mare Gone for Christmas, a half-sister to the dam of 2007 Grade 1
Ashland winner Christmas Kid. The family could strike again at Belmont tomorrow with
Santa, a half-brother to Christmas Kid, who is tabbed as the 3-1 morning-line
favorite in the third race.
Many of the industry’s brightest stars embarked upon their
careers at the NYRA tracks, including a number of recent Triple Crown race
winners. Big Brown, Jazil, Birdstone, Funny Cide, and Empire Maker are all
among the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes
victors that kick-started their careers at Aqueduct, Belmont
Park, or Saratoga.
The list also includes a brilliant triumvirate of fillies that broke
their maidens at Aqueduct. Flashing, Little Belle, and Music Note all
registered their first victories at the Big A before going on to win major
Grade 1 races within the last two years.