Midlantic-breds thrive over Belmont weekend
Still Having Fun won the G2 Woody Stephens Stakes. Photo by Viola Jasko/NYRA.
by Frank Vespe
The biggest racing weekends — think Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Breeders’ Cup — often aren’t the greatest ones for horses bred in the Mid-Atlantic.
While there are plenty of horses bred in the region that can compete with the nation’s best, there generally aren’t enough to make a big dent on a big day.
But the Belmont weekend just passed turned out to be another story altogether.
In fact, no fewer than six horses bred in either Pennsylvania or Maryland won during the 24 races contested at Belmont on Friday and Saturday. And, for good measure, a Virginia-raised horse ran second in the Grade 1 Manhattan.
Here’s the roster:
- Maryland-bred Our Braintrust rallied up the rail under Javier Castellano to take the $150,000 Tremont Stakes for two-year-olds. The Freud colt, trained at Laurel Park by Cal Lynch for himself and Stanton J. Smith, Jr., is undefeated in two starts after getting the 5 1/2-furlong distance in 1:04.41, earning a Beyer speed figure of 73. He paid $23.40 to win as the second-longest shot in the field of seven. He was bred by Barak Farm.
- One race later, Fixedincome Larry, a Pennsylvania-bred Flatter colt, rallied from sixth under Manny Franco to win a maiden special weight test going seven furlongs. The Jeremiah Engelhart trainee, a homebred for Gold Square LLC, graduated in his fourth career start and returned $26.80 to win as the second-longest shot on the board.
- The Midlantic-bred onslaught started early and kept going right up to the end of the day Saturday. In the day’s second race, the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes for three-year-olds, Pennsylvania-bred Prince Lucky was always close to the pace under John Velazquez before outgaming two rivals in a three-horse scramble to win by a neck in 1:41.41 for 1 1/16 miles. Prince Lucky is trained by Todd Pletcher for owner-breeder Daniel McConnell, The Corinthian gelding has won four of eight starts, two in stakes company, and earned honors as 2017 PA-bred juvenile of the year. Prince Lucky paid $30 to win as, yes, the second-longest shot on the board.
- Maryland-bred Still Having Fun benefited from a wicked early pace — 43 3/5 seconds for the opening half-mile — and rallied from well out of it under Joel Rosario to win the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes for three-year-olds. Still Having Fun earned a 94 Beyer after completing the seven furlongs in a sharp 1:21.45. The victory was the first in graded company for trainer Tim Keefe, who conditions Still Having Fun for Terp Racing LLC, Gary Barber, and Wachtel Stable. and ran the Old Fashioned colt’s record to four wins from eight starts with earnings of $431,703. Still Having Fun was bred by Keefe and Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGinnes. He returned $28 to win.
- Pennsylvania-bred Spring Quality rallied from 11th under jockey Edgar Prado to win the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes by a neck in 1:58.58 for 1 1/4 miles over firm turf. Spring Quality is a Quality Road gelding who is a homebred for George Strawbridge, Jr.’s Augustin Stable. The Graham Motion trainee earned his first victory in Grade 1 company and now has six wins from 11 starts with career earnings of over $860,000. He earned a 102 Beyer speed fig after winning by a neck over the Virginia-raised Sadler’s Joy.
- Finally, in the last race of the day, a first-level allowance that went off more than eight hours after the card began, Maryland-bred Hammerin Aamer led throughout en route to a one-length victory, returning $16.60 to his backers. A four-year-old Jump Start colt bred by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds LLC, Hammerin Aamer is trained by Rudy Rodriguez for Zayat Stables LLC. now has four wins from 15 starts.