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Winchester Beats Paddy O'Prado in Turf Classic

Winchester captures the 2008 Secretariat at Arlington

Winchester unleashed a powerful stretch run to collar favored Paddy O’Prado and win the 34th renewal of the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon.

 

Winchester sat well-reserved at the back of the pack as Interpatation, last year’s Turf Classic winner, led the field through pokey opening fractions of 25.58 and 52.98. Ninth and last through a mile in 1:20.37, Winchester angled out and began to advance on the far turn, finding himself four wide coming into the stretch, where he closed strongly to finish a length in front.

 

His final time for the 1 ½ miles was 2:36.09 over yielding turf.

 

“The track is very soft so my horse was more comfortable getting covered up,” said winning jockey Cornelio Velasquez. “Then, in the last quarter, I put him in the clear and he finished very well.”

 

It was the second Grade 1 victory for Winchester, whom Velasquez piloted to win the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont on June 5. With today’s win, the 5-year-old son of Theatrical ran his record to 5-5-2 from 19 starts and pushed his earnings over the $1 million mark to $1,057,898 for owners Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone. The Firestones also campaigned Theatrical, who won the Turf Classic in 1987, and April Run, who took back-to-back editions of the race in 1981 and 1982.

 

“On that ground [how far back they are] is irrelevant,” said winning trainer Christophe Clement, who also conditions third-place finisher Grassy. “When the ground is soft, either they like it or they don’t. He won the Manhattan on very firm ground, which slightly puzzled me because I’ve always thought he was better with a cut [in the ground]. We’re very lucky. He’s a very nice horse and he’s won a Grade 1 on both types of turf. I think after this race, as long as he trains well, we’ll have to think about the Breeders’ Cup [Turf].”

 

In the Manhattan, Winchester upset his dual Eclipse-award winning stablemate Gio Ponti, who finished second to Interpatation in the 2009 Turf Classic as he sought his fifth consecutive Grade 1 victory. This year, Clement has trained the winners of three of the four Grade 1 turf route races run on the NYRA circuit, capturing the Manhattan and Turf Classic with Winchester and Man o’War with Gio Ponti.

 

“It’s great, I’m a lucky guy,” said Clement. “It’s wonderful because Mr. and Mrs. Firestone have been supporting New York racing forever, I’ve never won [this race before], they’ve won it three times before, and I’m just lucky to train for that kind of people.”

 

The mare Treat Gently finished fourth, with Telling, Never On Sunday, Interpatation, Strike a Deal and Bearpath completing the order of finish. Al Khali and Solitaire were scratched.

 

 

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