Peter Brant's Fifty Five continued to find her best stride at Belmont Park, staying off the speed before overtaking Wish Upon at the top of the stretch and fending off War Canoe's late challenge to win the $125,000 John Hettinger for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and up for a second straight year on Sunday at Belmont Park.
Off as the 1-2 favorite, Fifty Five settled in fifth position as Wish Upon led the nine-horse field through opening fractions of 25.12 for the quarter-mile with the half in 49.61 on the firm inner turf.
Approaching the final turn, Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano urged Fifty Five from the outside, where she took command in the straightaway. Fifty Five continued under a drive as War Canoe made a late bid to her outside. But the charge was too late, with 5-year-old Get Stormy mare winning by three-quarters of a length, completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.67.
Fifty Five, whose last score came in the Mount Vernon on May 27 at Belmont, was coming off a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx and fourth last out in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course. Capitalizing on a return to her favorite course, the Chad Brown trainee posted her fifth consecutive win at Belmont and improved to 6-2-1 in 10 career starts at the track, including last year's edition of the John Hettinger.
“She appreciates this turf course a lot,” said Brown assistant Whit Beckman. “The wider turns give her a little more room to negotiate, although she set herself a little closer today going with the trend. Javier knows her very well. I didn't have to tell him much, as he has ridden her in many of her starts. This win capped a good weekend for us.”
Bred by Empire Equines, Fifty Five returned $3 on a $2 win wager. She improved her career earnings to $917,788. Castellano also registered his second stakes victory on the day, adding to his victory aboard favorite Come Dancing in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom.
“She's a special horse. She's very consistent and I like the way she did it today,” Castellano said. “You can see the pace was slow, but she was close to it and in a good position. Usually, she isn't that close, but with the way the pace was, she was in a good, comfortable rhythm and in a good spot in the race. She got the job done. She just knows how to win. I thought I had the best horse in the race and I'm glad to get it done.”
War Canoe, trained by Linda Rice and ridden by Jose Lezcano, finished 2 ¾ lengths clear of Wegetsdamunnys for second.
Wish Upon, Kreesie, Dynamite Kitten, Belle of the Spa and Giant Zinger completed the order of finish. Munchkin Money broke poorly and was pulled up.
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