Jockey Jose Lezcano rocketed up the Belmont spring/summer leaderboard with a five-win day Saturday, earning a trip to the winner's circle aboard Special Story in Race 1, Mr. Dougie Fresh in Race 6, a dead-heat victory aboard Invest in Race 8, Big Gemmy (Race 9) and capping the day with First Forever in the 12th-race finale at Belmont Park.
Lezcano upped his meet win total to nine entering Sunday, tying with Kendrick Carmouche for the leaderboard's top spot.
“You never know going in, but I liked all my horses yesterday. It felt good,” Lezcano said. “I'm off to a good start and I'm getting mounts from some different [trainers] with Linda Rice, Jason Servis, Charlie Baker giving me more horses. I really appreciate all the business and I want to continue doing the same thing.”
Lezcano notched the first five-win day at a NYRA track since Manny Franco went 5-for-7 at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 11. In total, Lezcano, went 5-for-8, with a second-place finish on Schwarbertown in Race 2 and a third-place effort aboard Sunny Ridge in the Grade 3 Westchester in Race 11. It marked his first five-win day on a NYRA track.
“Winning in New York is always special to any jockey, this is the top group,” Lezcano said. “I like riding at Belmont. The track is good, the turf is good, and you're riding with good riders. I like to ride with the good [jockeys].”
Lezcano entered Belmont after posting 15 wins in 57 mounts during the Aqueduct spring meet, which was second only to Franco, who won 18 in 84 mounts. Lezcano was fourth during the longer Aqueduct winter meet, riding 54 winners in 242 starts.
The recently turned 34-year-old has already registered a graded stakes win this year, with Solid Wager living up to his name in the Grade 3 Toboggan on January 19 at the Big A.
“I had a good winter and I was just trying to build my business back up and keep going from there,” Lezcano said. “You keep winning races, you get asked for more rides. I'm just trying to do my best.”
By next week, Lezcano is due to surpass 15,000 career starts, entering the day with 2,562 winners in 14,997 mounts, generating earnings in excess of $132 million. The Chiriqui, Panama native has three career Breeders' Cup victories, with Wise Dan in the Mile in 2013, Royal Delta in the Ladies' Classic in 2011 and Maram in the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2008. His best finish in a Classic was Ice Box's runner-up effort in the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Linda Rice relishes the successful day that her stable had on Saturday afternoon with four victories on the program.
The 2011 Belmont spring/summer meet leading trainer started the day with a narrow loss in the second race with Schwarbertown, who got nosed out by I Saw It All, but racked up victories in four of the last five races with Invest (Race 8, $2.60), Big Gemmy (Race 9, $4.80), Nicodemus (Race 11, $18.60) and First Forever (Race 12, $7.00).
Three of Rice's four winners were piloted by Lezcano, who also enjoyed a prosperous day with five wins.
“It was exciting,” Rice said. “We started out in the second race and only got beat by a short margin with Schwarbertown. Then the day just kept getting better.”
Her penultimate winner on the day was in the Grade 3 Westchester with Nicodemus, who scored his first graded stakes victory in the one-mile event over the main track. Owned by Everything's Cricket Stable and Lawrence Goichman, the son of Candy Ride entered the Westchester off of a troubled fourth-place effort in the Grade 3 Excelsior at Aqueduct last month.
“He ran well in the Excelsior,” Rice said. “He didn't have a great trip that day, he only got beat 2 ¾ lengths. He got squeezed out going from the one position into the first turn. I was disappointed in, not his effort, but the race in general with the trip we got. He came back and trained really well. My gut feeling is that he's a one-turn horse whether it be a one-turn mile or seven-eighths. I think he appreciates the one turn.”
Rice stated that she would consider the Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on June 8 for Nicodemus.
“We'll weigh out our options,” Rice said. “We know that it would be a big step up in competition but frankly, he's got a good prep. He's good at a one-turn mile so it's something we're going to look at.”
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Nicodemus is out of the four-time graded stakes winning millionaire Leah's Secret.
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