By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
ELMONT, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott readily admits he was prepared to give up a bit on Ron the Greek by starting him in the Kelso, a Grade 2 event contested at one mile and carrying a purse of $400,000, rather than the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, run at 1 ¼ miles with a purse of $1 million.
But the owners decided to go for the gusto, and their 6-year-old horse rewarded them with a stunning 6 ¾-length romp against a star-studded field on Saturday at Belmont Park.
“He was on the bridle and he flat out out-ran everybody,” said a delighted Mott after Ron the Greek snapped a five-race losing streak. The rout marked his first victory since he rolled by 11 ¼ lengths in the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 19 at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
Ron the Greek covered the distance in 1:59.70. He paid $44.00 for a $2 win wager as the third-longest shot in a field of eight. Kentucky Derby winner Orb faded to last.
Flat Out and Ron the Greek ran third and fourth, respectively, in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.
RON THE GREEK STORMED TO DOMINANT WIN IN JOCKEY CLUB GOLD CUP
(Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
Mott looks forward to trying again at that site. He knows Ron the Greek will be dangerous if he can repeat his Gold Cup effort, which would be no mean feat.
“To see him run like that, I know he can do it,” Mott said. “I just don’t know when he’s going to do it.”
Beldame Invitational: Princess of Sylmar, who towered above the 3-year-old division, can lay claim to being the finest filly in the land after outdueling Royal Delta by two lengths for her fourth consecutive Grade 1 triumph and first against older females.
Trainer Todd Pletcher commended owner-breeder Ed Stanco for his willingness to challenge two-time defending Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta in the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame rather than ship her to the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing, which carried a $1 million purse.
“We have a lot of respect for how good Royal Delta is, and it says a lot about Ed Stanco that we could have gone to what appeared to be an easier spot on paper and we came here and took on the defending champ and were a deserving winner,” Pletcher said. “It wasn’t about the money, you know?”
RECAP OF BELDAME
Mott, trainer of Royal Delta, did not appear overly concerned by the setback.
“I think Royal Delta is doing well. We looked for a big race from her,” he said. “I think she ran a good race, maybe not her best race.”
Mott hopes the Beldame can lead to a three-peat in the Ladies’ Classic, now called the Distaff.
“I’ve won more Breeders Cups finishing second in the Beldame than winning it,” he said.
Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred, is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup. It is unclear whether she will be supplemented.
“I don’t think that’s a question we can answer right now,” Pletcher said. “We need two or three more weeks to sort that out.”
PRINCESS OF SYLMAR OVERHAULS ROYAL DELTA
Photo by Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Kelso Invitational: Graydar, unraced since March 30, overcame that layoff to take the Kelso by three-quarters of a length over Brujo de Olleros and position himself for either the Breeders’ Cup Mile or the Classic. Trainer Pletcher said a decision will be made in the coming weeks.
Pletcher was as interested in what occurred immediately after the race as what happened during it.
“He was still in front the eighth after the finish line and galloped out a pretty decent mile and a quarter,” the trainer said. “I think we got, conditioning wise, enough so that, if he trains accordingly, he might be able to get [the 1 ¼-mile Classic distance],” he said.
GRAYDAR ROLLS IN KELSO
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Vosburgh Invitational: Trainer Doug O’Neill made a smart move when he decided to ship Private Zone from the West Coast for this six-furlong race. His 4-year-old gelding responded with a sizzling performance.
“It’s always tough shipping in to Belmont to win an allowance race, never mind a Grade 1,” said Jack Sisterson, an assistant to O’Neill. “All the credit to Doug and the team back home for getting this horse ready.”
PRIVATE ZONE HOLDS ON TO WIN VOSBURGH
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Flower Bowl Invitational: Laughing set the pace from the outset and held off stablemate Tannery by a half-length to gain her fourth victory in as many starts this year for trainer Alan Goldberg following previous successes in the Grade 3 Eatontown, Grade 1 Diana and Grade 2 Ballston Spa.
LAUGHING ROARS TO FLOWER BOWL SCORE
Photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational: Little Mike, a disappointment in all four of his starts since he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year, showed he is rounding into form at the ideal time by barely holding off late-charging Big Blue Kitten in a scintillating photo finish.
“This is a big win for this horse and for the barn,” winning trainer Dale Romans said. “We've had kind of a rough year, and this is our first Grade 1 of the year.”
LITTLE MIKE (outside) BATTLED GAMELY TO NIP BIG BLUE KITTEN
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
For Equibase charts of all the Belmont Park races, click here.