Yoshida found a narrow opening in midstretch under Manny Franco and out-kicked his rivals to win the Grade 3, $500,000 Hill Prince Saturday at Belmont Park. Lucullan finished second, beaten a neck, with 6-5 favorite Bricks and Mortar a half length back in third, Frostmourne fourth and pace-setting Secretary of War fifth in the field of nine 3-year-olds. Yoshida, a Japanese-bred son the Sunday Silence stallion Heart's Cry, covered 1 1/18 miles on firm turf in 1:47.07. The winner, sent off at odds of 4-1, is trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott and owned by a partnership of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Bloodstock and Heads of Plains Partners.
Stewards lit the inquiry sign to examine the stretch run of the Hill Prince, as the five top horses were closely bunched, but allowed the results to stand.
Secretary At War was sent to the early lead under jockey Junior Alvarado, setting fractions of :24.21, :49.11, 1:13.07 and 1:35.81. Frostmourne was in closest pursuit, with Yoshida tucked in along the rail in third, Lucullan to his outside and Bricks and Mortar several lengths farther back.
Turning into the stretch, Lucullan ranged up on the outside, with Frostmourne to his inside and Secretary At War still running well along the rail. Bricks and Mortar and Yoshida were both looking for room, and the latter shot through an opening when it developed between Secretary At War and Frostmourne. The latter, under right-handed urging, lugged in, creating a tight spot for Bricks and Mortar, but by then Yoshida had the jump.
“I thought the two that were in front (Secretary At War, No. 1, and Frostmourne, No. 4) would be in front of us, and I was hoping we might be laying third and we were,” said Mott. “We got the benefit of saving the ground today and that didn't hurt him.
“The horse and rider both showed good courage,” Mott added. “The rider showed good patience and when he asked him he had enough horse to get in there. It looks like Bricks and Mortar went for the same hole and we were able to get there first. Actually, it looked like Frostmourne came over a little bit and crowded both of us.”
“I rode with a lot of confidence, as Bill told me,” said Franco. I expected to be third or fourth, saving ground, covering the horse up, like I did, and just waiting for the hole. By the eighth pole, we (Franco and Joel Rosario aboard Bricks and Mortar, No. 6) were going for the same spot, but I had a lot of horse and my horse took off and went through. We were going to the same spot, but I had more horse than him so I got his spot.”
“He had a rough trip out there,” said Chad Brown, trainer of favored Bricks and Mortars. “I thought it would open up for him (in late stretch). I thought he was best.”
The Hill Prince was the first graded stakes victory for Yoshida, who was bred by Katsumi Yoshida's Northern Farm. Produced from the Canadian Frontier mare Hilda's Passion, Yoshida was coming off a close second to Voodoo Song in the G3 Saranac at Saratoga. He broke his maiden in April at Keeneland and won the James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico on May 20. He is now 3-for-7 with three seconds.
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