Donegal Racing's Donegal Moon was the 1 1/4-length winner of Sunday's Grade 3 Betfair.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, giving jockey Joe Bravo his second graded stakes winner of the weekend after taking the Stephen Foster on Bradester Saturday night. A sophomore son of Malibu Moon, Donegal Moon covered 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:44.15 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“It's so fun to ride for Team Pletcher,” said Bravo. “Todd [trainer Pletcher] text me earlier and the instructions worked out perfectly. There was so much early speed in the race and the race set up great for us. In the stretch, he really came running strongly. This was a fun two days.”
Donegal Moon broke evenly with the field, but allowed the speedy frontrunners to move away from him and settled kindly at the back of the seven-horse field under Bravo. At the front of the pack, Saratoga Jack claimed the early lead by nearly two lengths over Abiding Star and the previously undefeated Unified, streaking out to fractions of :23.70 and :47.63. Approaching the half-mile pole, Donegal Moon snuck up the inside to move into sixth position, then glided along smoothly in that spot for another sixteenth of a mile. Entering the far turn, Donegal Moon was shaken up by Bravo, quickly taking up fourth position from the inside rail, just three lengths off the leaders.
Awesome Slew took over the lead nearing the head of the lane, and Unified attempted to go with him but was unable to do so while three wide. Awesome Slew's advatnage was short-lived as Donegal Moon angled out to the three-path and extended his stride toward the wire. Donegal Moon held a short lead most of the way down the stretch, and just drew it out to a full 1 1/4 lengths about a hundred yards before the wire. Longshot Extinct Charm battled on down the center of the track but could do no better than second, while Awesome Slew was no more than a neck back in third. From there, it was several more lengths back to Saratoga Jack, and Unified was eased under the wire to finish fifth after fading down the lane.
Jose Ortiz, aboard the previously undefeated colt Unified, said: “He broke really well from the gate and he was going good for the first half mile. I asked him to go around the three-eighths pole and just didn't have it today.”
Bred in Kentucky by Patchen Wilkes Farm, Donegal Moon was a $220,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. A slow learner, Donegal Moon took four starts to break his maiden, then was a possible contender along the Kentucky Derby trail before unseating his rider at the start of the Jerome Stakes, then fading to fifth in the Withers Stakes in January. An allowance win put him back into consideration, but again, he finished off the board in the Blue Grass Stakes in April. The Pegasus is Donegal Moon's first graded stakes victory, and improves his career record to 3-1-1 from 11 starts, with earnings of just under $200,000.
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