Tonalist Impressive in the Westchester

May 03, 2015 02:38pm
Tonalist Impressive in the Westchester
Photo: NYRA/Susie Rasher

Tonalist made his 2015 debut a winning one in the $150,000 Westchester (G3) when he overcame a slow break from the gate to sweep past the early leaders to draw out to an impressive victory.

The Christophe Clement trainee remained unbeaten in four tries at his home base, Belmont Park. Before the race Clement said to owner Robert Evans that he wished this race was around two turns. Tonalist had never won at a distance less than a mile and an eighth.

After the race Clement said, “ The layoff was not a concern; I thought he trained very well, so I was happy with that. The mile was a question mark.”

The victory in the Westchester was clearly an example of class prevailing over an inferior group of horses. When Palace Malice scratched out of the race, Tonalist was left to face three other runners who had not won a stakes race.

At the start Tonalist came out of the gate slowly, something that he had not done early in his career, but first appeared after the blinkers were removed last year in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With the other three horses being rushed forward by their riders, Tonalist and his jockey, Joe Bravo, were left six lengths behind.

Clement continued, “He broke a little asleep. I thought Joe [Bravo] did a great job putting him in the race. From the half-mile pole you knew he was traveling very well. It's fun. That's what good horses do. They win. I guess we'll have to think about the Met Mile [June 6]."

The speedy Juba, who came into the Westchester off two front running sprint wins, set the pace closest to the rail while Confrontation sat a length behind with Souper Lucky another length back in third place. The first quarter went in :23.08 and the leaders then picked it up to go a half mile in a brisk :45.91. At this point the top three began to bunch up and Tonalist started to move and edged closer. The three quarters time of 1:09.59 set the stage for Bravo and last year’s Belmont Stakes winner.

Tonalist mowed down the competition as Juba could no longer sustain his speed. This son of Tapit made it look very easy as he drew off to a 3 ¾ length victory. Confrontation prevailed in the battle for second place over Souper Lucky. Juba was a distant finisher in fourth.

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Bravo, who won the Westchester for the second time and is also approaching his career 5,000th victory, said after the race, "He's a special horse, everybody knows he's the Belmont winner, you just don't know with the time off if he's gonna comeback and Christophe warned me he said 'He might be a little slow leaving the gate, the hardest part just get him running the first part' once that was all over, down the backside he just pulled us to horses and it's just beautiful to ride good horses, it really is. He was a boy [when I rode him at Gulfstream early in his career] and it's funny to now see him as a man, he just completely grew into himself."

Tonalist was the .90-1 betting favorite and paid $3.80, $2.10. The win pushed his earnings over the $2,000,000 mark and upped his career record to 10: 5-2-1. Final time for the mile was 1:34.07.


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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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