Determined Le Bernardin hangs on in Pegasus
Le Bernardin dug in down the lane to gamely capture the Grade 3 $100,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday before a record Father’s Day crowd of 27,532.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Le Bernardin covered the mile-and-a-sixteenth in 1:44.51 on a fast track to prevail by a neck in the prep race for the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational to be run here on Sunday, July 29.
Sent off at 5-1 in the field of seven 3-year-olds and carrying 116 pounds, Le Bernardin returned $12, $5.40 and $3.40 across the board and topped the $61.20 exacta. Easter Gift paid $4.60 to place and $3 to show. It was another length-and-a-quarter back to even-money favorite Good Morning Diva, who returned $2.40 to show.
“He just kept running,” said winning jockey Mike Luzzi. “I was having trouble with him early and I put him into the race on the outside so he wasn’t getting dirt in his face. I really had to keep after him because he kept trying to lug in. It was surprising because he’d never done that in his races before, but he’s only been out a handful of times. I was just trying to get him to focus and kept him on his task all the way to the wire.”
By Bernardini from the Wild Again mare La Rosa, the Darley Stable homebred improved his lifetime mark to three wins from five starts. With the winner’s share of the purse, the first time stakes-winning colt has now earned $146,000.
“It was a great win and an excellent ride by Mike Luzzi,” said McLaughlin. “The horse seemed to be lugging in for much of the race, but Mike did a great job. I’ve never noticed that he’s been a tough horse to ride in the past, but Mike knows him well and did a great job today. The Haskell is obviously a race we’ll look at after we see how he comes out of this.”
Easter Gift closed strongly through the lane to engage the winner in a three-way stretch duel with Good Morning Diva, but Le Bernardin proved best.
“We’ll definitely have to think about the Haskell after his race today,” said Nick Zito, trainer of Easter Gift. “He handled two turns fine and came running at the end. I thought it was a very good race and something we can build off of.”
Tim Hills, the trainer of Good Morning Diva said, “I understand why we were where we were (on the rail). I just wish we weren’t there. The race played out like that. I don’t know about the Haskell. I’ll have to talk that over with the owners.”