Close Hatches (pink cap) edges ahead to secure a valuable victoryPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Close Hatches holds off Princess in fillies' clash
Report: USA, Saturday
Belmont Park: Ogden Phipps Stakes (Grade 1) 1m½f, dirt, 4yo+ f/m
CLOSE HATCHES (Bill Mott/Joel Rosario) upstaged dual champion Beholder with a gutsy performance to hold off last year's Kentucky Oaks winner Princess Of Sylmar in this clash of America's top older fillies.
In a major success for the Juddmonte operation, the four-year-old sat behind the pace set by two longshots before kicking on at the head of the stretch and then getting home in a tremendous finish.
Sent off just short of 3-1 as third favourite in the $1 million event, the four-year-old landed her fourth Grade 1 success by a head over Princess Of Sylmar, who closed from the rear in typical fashion and just fell short.
"We've been pointing to this race since early spring," said trainer Bill Mott. "It's one of those cases where things work out, when you make a plan and it comes to fruition.
"She's been unbelievably good," he added. "She's reproduced her form from last year, maybe even gotten a little better. I really have had some really good fillies, and I think she fits right into that category."
Joel Rosario suggested he had got in front sooner than he wanted. "They stopped a little early, so I took the lead," he said. "I knew she [Princess of Sylmar] was going to come, so I just wanted to have enough left."
Making her first start in New York, Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Beholder could finish only fourth. "She kept trying hard the whole way," said trainer Richard Mandella. "Maybe she wasn't comfortable with her surroundings."
Palace Malice proves his class in the Met MilePICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Also on Saturday
Belmont Park: Met Mile (Grade 1 hcap) 1m, dirt, 3yo+
A tremendous performance from last year's Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez), who completed a four-timer in this prestigious $1.25m contest, moved from Memorial Day weekend to join the Grade 1 jamboree.
Palace Malice, who had won all three starts this year in lesser grade, fought through on the rail in the final furlong to collar Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile victor Goldencents (received 3lb), who must surely have been favoured by the fast track. The winning margin was a length.
"I was very, very concerned when he drew the one post - that could be difficult to overcome - and carrying 124lb," Pletcher said. "What can you say about the quality of a horse that's able to do that one year after winning a Classic going a mile-and-a-half?"
Belmont Park: Manhattan Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f, turf, 4yo+
The Jeremy Noseda-trained Grandeur was ridden well off the pace and never landed a meaningful blow before closing well to finish fourth behind Arlington Million winner Real Solution (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano).
Belmont Park: Acorn Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, dirt, 3yo fillies
With dominant Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable sitting out this prestigious race for three-year-old fillies, the 9-1 chance Sweet Reason (Leah Gyarmati/Irad Ortiz) came from off the pace to beat a high-class field.
Belmont Park: Just A Game Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 4yo+ f/m
Canadian-trained Coffee Clique (Brian Lynch/Javier Castellano) got the better of a head-bobbing finish with outsider Strathnaver, who surged home out wide. The runner-up was a dual winner in Britain for former trainer Ed Dunlop.
Belmont Park: Woody Stephens Stakes (Grade 2) 7f, dirt, 3yo
Bayern (Bob Baffert/Gary Stevens), considered a Kentucky Derby hope at one stage, appreciated the drop back in trip to 7f when drawing away to an easy victory by nearly eight lengths.