Jersey Town took command at the top of the stretch and drew off to win the $400,000 Kelso Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Sept. 29.
The victory earned the 6-year-old horse by Speightstown an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) at Santa Anita, since it is part of the 'Win and You're In' series sponsored by the Breeders' Cup.
The victory in the Kelso was Jersey Town's first win in almost two years; his last victory came in the 2010 Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I)
A field of six went to the post in the Kelso, with To Honor and Serve sent off the even money favorite. Second choice in the field was Shackleford, and it was that colt that went to the front at the start. Trickmeister sat just off him in second, and the duo set some swift early fractions of 22.54 and 45.02.
Shackleford continued to lead as the field rounded the far turn. Javier Castellano had Jersey Town on the move and in third, and as the field swept through the turn and hit the top of the stretch, Jersey Town hit another gear and took off, charging past Shackleford and into the lead.
Jersey Town continued to cruise through the stretch, eventually winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Shackleford held on for second, with Trickmeister third. To Honor and Serve was never a factor and finished fourth.
Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:35.24 over the good going.
Quotes courtesy NYRA
Barclay Tagg, winning trainer of Jersey Town (No. 3): “I was a little surprised [by Jersey Town's victory] because the race came up really, really tough. I was debating whether to go in the [Vosburgh] or the [Kelso]. That took a lot of figuring out. I had one reporter angry with me because I told him I was going in the sprint and I went in the mile. I like miles better than sprints, anyway.”
“I didn't think I could beat [To Honor and Serve] when he's at his best. He looks like a monster horse when he's at his best. [Jersey Town] just needed to have a couple of races in a row before this one. I thought he needs that kind of thing. He's a real hefty horse. He needs to train hard, but he really doesn't have the legs and feet to train hard on. You have to hit a happy medium, and things were just coming together real nicely for him this fall, so we took a shot at it.”
Tagg indicated that Jersey Town's next start was likely be the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Javier Castellano, winning jockey aboard Jersey Town (No. 3): “It worked out great. It was a hot pace today. There was a lot speed in the race, and it was a small field. It worked out really good for me. I just followed the best horse in the race. Turning for home, the horses got tired; they started backing up a little bit. My horse is a really nice horse to ride. He split horses and took off, and I'm very satisfied with the way he did it.”
Dale Romans, trainer of runner-up Shackleford (No. 6): “I've seen him go faster and keep going. It was a little different track today; I told Ramon to take the race to them and make them pass us. Trickmeister is a fast horse, he was running with us and we were going too fast up front. Jersey Town just ran a big race today. I'd like to have gotten the trophy, but it puts us in a good position going to the Breeders' Cup.”
Hall of Famer Bill Mott, trainer of beaten favorite and fourth-place finisher To Honor and Serve (No. 5): “He was dull, a little dull. He didn't break; Johnny just said he was a little flat. He didn't put in any kind of effort. I understood the risk in running him today, but I wanted to run him because I felt it was my best shot five weeks from now in the Breeders' Cup. Whether that turns out to be the case or not, I'll have to answer that question myself in five weeks, but I just thought running him today was the best thing for me to get him to the Breeders' Cup Classic.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, rider aboard beaten favorite and fourth-place finisher To Honor and Serve (No. 5): “I had a good trip, I just didn't have enough run. He was not there for me today, he was going through the motions. That's it.”
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