Chester and Mary Broman's 17.2 hands-tall Mr. Buff muscled his way to the lead and showed strength and determination to fend off the late charge of diminutive Dynamax Prime to capture Saturday's $300,000 Empire Classic by a length on Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park.
Mr. Buff, under Junior Alvarado, commanded the lead in the nine-furlong event from early pacesetter Not That Brady and, despite not switching leads, enjoyed a comfortable win.
“He made that early move at the five-eighths pole and shot through there. My only criticism is I wish he had got on his outside lead turning for home,” said trainer John Kimmel. “In these one-turn races he has a tendency not to switch over, whereas in the two-turn races he gets in on one lead and out on the other. Junior said he won with plenty in reserve.”
Kimmel said the Grade 1, $600,000 Clark, a nine-furlong handicap set for November 29 at Churchill Downs could be next for Mr. Buff.
“He's come out of the race great,” said Kimmel. “I'd like to try something different next like the Clark, a two-turn mile and an eighth race.”
Kimmel also saddled maiden winner Harris Bay to a deceptively-good third in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow won by Captain Bombastic. Settled behind rivals in third in the early running, Harris Bay fell back to fifth at the stretch call before finding his feet to regain third.
“He was a little keen down the backside. He probably could have gone on and engaged the 4-horse [Captain Bombastic] but in wanting to leave a little something for the finish, he took a lot of dirt in the face,” said Kimmel. “I think he was a little timid between horses going into the turn and coming out of the turn, but when he found a little room and came on again. I thought he was going to be fifth, but he had some finish to get up again and be third. We'll see what the condition book holds next for us.”
Crystalle, who will make her next start in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita, breezed four furlongs in company with Grade 3 Nashua-bound Famished in 49.55 seconds on the Belmont inner turf on Sunday.
With Joel Rosario up, Crystalle, who captured the P. G. Johnson on August 29 at Saratoga, worked outside of Famished, fourth last out in the Grade 3 Pilgrim, with the pair both travelling comfortable to the wire.
“She worked very nice and we're on target. Joel said she worked good and finished up well. I had the last quarter in 22 and 4,” said Kimmel.
Last out, Crystalle closed from last of eight to finish second in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo at 1 1/16-miles on the Belmont turf. She will have just one mile to negotiate in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“It's a real challenge for the way the race will set up compared to what she's been doing,” said Kimmel. “They'll be going much quicker and it's a shorter race, so she'll have to overcome some things that may be to her disadvantage. She can't find herself way out the back door, so he'll [Rosario] have to be cognizant of the pace and put her in a position where she has a chance.”
Kimmel said Crystalle will have one more serious bit of work before shipping to California next Sunday.
“She'll do something easy on Saturday morning. She's fit. So maybe something a little better than a two-minute lick to get her a little sharper,” said Kimmel.
The Ontario-bred Famished, an early contender for the 2020 Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack, has shown ability on turf, finishing fourth last out in the Grade 3 Pilgrim, and on dirt over which he graduated at second asking. The Uncle Mo colt, bred by Michael C. Byrne, is under consideration for the nine-furlong Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen on December 7 at the Big A should he perform well in the Nashua.
“I have to decide if I want to try him back on the dirt or not,” said Kimmel. “Next week I'll work him back on the dirt and see how he handles it. We can always go back to the grass. If he runs well in the Nashua it gives me a little more time to map out my schedule. If he runs good there, I might run him in the Remsen.”
Promising juveniles Mandatory, by American Pharoah, and Undefeated, by Uncle Mo, worked four furlongs in company in 49.83 on Big Sandy on Sunday.
Mandatory, a half-brother to three-time Grade 1-winning millionaire I'm a Chatterbox, finished third sprinting six furlongs in his September 28 debut. He is expected to stretch out in a maiden event next Saturday, while Undefeated is pointed to a grass debut a day later.
“The American Pharoah colt will run next weekend. I think he has potential to be a nice two-turn horse. He worked a little half this morning in 49 and 4 with Undefeated to be ready for next Saturday. It went well,” said Kimmel. “Undefeated is an Uncle Mo colt that I'll likely run in the grass race on Sunday.”
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