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To Honor and Serve on Cruise Control in Westchester

To Honor and Serve wins the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA, September 24, 2011. Jockey is Jose Lezcano, trainer is Bill Mott, owner is Live Oak Plantation. (Joan Fairman Kanes/Eclipse Sportswire)
To Honor and Serve picked up right where he left off in 2011, rolling to an easy 5 ¼-length victory over Boys At Tosconova in Saturday afternoon's Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester at Belmont Park.

Sent off as the 3-5 favorite in his first start since taking the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap last November at Aqueduct, the 4-year-old Bernardini colt rated comfortably in second as Bold Deed opened up an eight-length lead through an opening half-mile in 45.05 seconds. Cutting into the pacesetter's advantage on the turn, To Honor and Serve took command at the head of the stretch and was never threatened as he galloped to the wire under a hand ride.

His winning time for the mile was 1:34.84 over a fast track.

"We're always happy to see him come back off that long a layoff and run well," said Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who trains To Honor and Serve for Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation. "You never know what to expect, sometimes. He's been training well and we thought with a good effort he'd win the race, and he did. He looked good. He was kind of idling down a bit at the wire. He made a nice move around the turn to catch the leader and it looked like he was holding everybody off well enough."

To Honor and Serve, who has now won four of his last five starts, returned $3.20 for a $2 win bet. The winner's purse of $90,000 increased his earnings to $1,236,340 from a record of 7-1-2 from 12 starts, which include a trio of Grade 2 victories in the 2010 Remsen and Nashua at Aqueduct and the 2011 Pennsylvania Derby.

To Honor and Serve will likely return to Grade 1 competition in a month, said Mott, with Belmont Park's $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap on May 28 his next objective.

"That would be a goal for anybody, I suppose, for any part of the season," he said. "That would be a big accomplishment if he could do that. So, we're going to cross our fingers and hope he trains well coming into that. We would love to see him run well in there."

The Met Mile is the centerpiece of a Memorial Day card that includes the Grade 1 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares and the Grade 2 Sands Point on the turf for 3-year-old fillies.

Boys At Tosconova, 2010's Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful winner who had his three-race win streak snapped in his return to graded stakes competition, was five lengths ahead of Bold Deed, with Goombada Guska finishing fourth. Jersey Town, Marilyn's Guy and Ponzi Scheme were scratched.


 

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