Jockey Jose Ortiz registered four victories while owner-breeders Chester and Mary Broman connected with three winners to lead the way on Saturday's annual Empire Showcase Day card at Belmont Park, featuring eight stakes races worth $1.75 million.
Jose Ortiz, who won an allowance event in the day's opener with Southern King, recorded three stakes wins in a four-start span late in the card, including the finale of the eight stakes for New York-breds when he piloted Gary Broad's Ratajkowski to a win by a head in the $250,000 Empire Distaff for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up in Race 10.
The 5-year-old Drosselmeyer mare, off at 9-5, stayed close to Out of Orbit's early fractions of 22.79 and 45.71 in the one-turn mile on the fast main track. Ortiz moved Ratajkowski up, where she took command in the stretch and fended off Our Super Nova's furious charge up the rail, hanging on for her third consecutive victory in hitting the wire in 1:35.45.
Trained by Brian Lynch, Ratajkowski returned $5.60 on a $2 win wager. Following Our Super Nova was Held Accountable, Newly Minted, Midnight Disguise, No Hayne No Gayne, Bonita Bianca, Unbridledadventure, Take Charge Aubrey, Out of Orbit and Might Be.
Newly Minted, the 6-5 favorite, stumbled while galloping out past the wire but got up and walked onto the equine ambulance under her own power. Jose Lezcano, her jockey, walked off without assistance.
Three of Ortiz's wins came in stakes competition, starting with Pauseforthecause winning the $150,000 Iroquois in Race 7 before making a return winner's circle trip next race with Captain Bombastic in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow.
The Bromans won with homebreds Mr. Buff in the $300,000 Empire Classic and Pauseforthecause in the Iroquois, in addition to breeding Captain Bombastic, who captured the Sleepy Hollow for owners Team Hanley.
In the Empire Classic for 3-year-olds and upward carded as Race 5, the John Kimmel-trained Mr. Buff, sent off as the 3-2 mutuel second-chose behind 3-5 post time favorite Pat On the Back, rebounded from his seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodward on August 31 at Saratoga to win the 1 1/8 mile route.
Breaking alertly from post 4 with Junior Alvarado aboard, the 5-year-old gelding settled in second position as Not That Brady surged to the front, completing the opening quarter-mile in 23.91 seconds. Determined to get the lead, Mr. Buff took command through a half-mile in 47.38.
Mr. Buff opened up by 3 ½ lengths at the stretch call and held off the rallying Dynamax Prime by one length. Pat On the Back, last year's Empire Classic winner, completed the trifecta followed by Blugrascat's Smile and Not That Brady.
Completing the distance in a final time of 1:48.65, the Friend Or Foe gelding returned $5 for a $2 win wager, while picking up his fourth win from six starts this year.
The day's stakes action kicked off in Race 2 with the $250,000 Maid of the Mist as Ten Strike Racing's Critical Value was victorious in her stakes debut for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.
Piloted by Junior Alvarado, Critical Value sat fourth to the outside of stakes winner Naked Avenger while pacesetter Good Credence set an opening quarter-mile in 23.68 and a half-mile in 47.53. Around the far turn, Alvarado asked Critical Value for more and she responded with a three-wide move at the top of the stretch. Critical Value took command at the three-sixteenths pole and drew off to win by 5 1/2-lengths in a final time of 1:37.07. Naked Avenger finished second, a neck the better of Good Credence. Rounding out the order of finish were Firenze Freedom, Knight Train and Saratoga Beauty.
Critical Value, who was bred by Marshall Gramm and Clay Sanders, banked $137,500 in victory and returned $7.30.
In Race 4, the $200,000 Mohawk, Castleton Lyons' Gucci Factor was stylish when outdueling a stubborn foe in Grade 1-winner Voodoo Song to notch his third stakes victory by a nose in the 1 1/16-mile event over the Widener turf course.
Trained by Christophe Clement and ridden by Joel Rosario, Gucci Factor was a troubled sixth last out in the Ashley T. Cole, where he was left at the gate but finished 3 ½ lengths back of Mohawk aspirant Dot Matrix.
Gucci Factor settled fourth in the early stages while Voodoo Song marked an opening quarter in a swift 22.96, 1 ½ lengths to the better of Dot Matrix to his outside. Recording the half-mile in 46.14 seconds, Voodoo Song maintained his advantage and was under a drive at the top of the stretch. In the final furlong, Voodoo Song was confronted by Gucci Factor to his outside but fought gamely down the lane. Gucci Factor would not be denied, however, stopping the clock in a final time of 1:39.51. It was another 1 ¼ lengths back to Hoboe in third. Rounding out the field were last year's Mohawk winner Offering Plan and Dot Matrix. Therapist, Rapt and Cross border were scratched.
Returning $5.70 for a $2 win bet, Gucci Factor banked $110,000 in victory while boosting his earnings to $555,325. Bred in New York by Highclere, Gucci Factor is by three-time champion Gio Ponti who also was owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Clement.
In Race 5, the $150,000 Hudson, 6-5 mutuel favorite Build to Suit picked up his first stakes win under a patient ride from Manny Franco. Leaving from the inside post in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, Build to Suit settled in fourth position inside of Kazmania as Eye Luv Lulu marked splits of 23.24 and 45.46 seconds to the half-mile under pressure from T Loves a Fight.
Franco deftly angled Build to Suit off the rail inside the quarter-pole and rallied outside of rivals to secure a 2 1/2-length win in a final running time of 1:15.88. A game and determined Eye Luv Lulu completed the exacta, three-quarters of a length in front of T Loves a Fight. Rounding out the order of finish were Gold for the King, Sicilia Mike, Kazmania, Winston's Chance and Celtic Chaos. Morning Breez was scratched.
The Bromans registered their day's second stakes victory as owner-breeders when Pauseforthecause led a seven-horse field wire-to-wire in a 3 1/2-length score in the Iroquois for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up in Race 7. The 4-year-old Giant's Causeway filly set fractions of 22.51 seconds for the quarter-mile with the half in 45.05 on the fast main track to win her first career stakes in eight appearances, including a third in last year's edition of the Iroquois.
Off at 7-2, Pauseforthecause returned $9.20 after drawing away from runner up Fair Regis, completing 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.62 under jockey Jose Ortiz. Holiday Disguise, Jc's Shooting Star, Carrera Cat, Filibustin, the favorite Satisfy and More Mischief completed the order of finish. Wadadli Princess was scratched.
The Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-olds, carded as Race 8, was won by Captain Bombastic for owner Team Hanley and trainer Jeremiah Englehart as the son of Forty Tales wired a field of six.
Breaking from post 4 with Jose Ortiz aboard, the pair went to the front setting fractions of 23.31 seconds for the opening quarter mile with the half in 46.26.
At the quarter-pole, Englehart trainee Cleon Jones, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, launched a menacing run at his stablemate but Captain Bombastic never relented, holding on to secure the victory by a head. He completed the one-mile distance in a final time of 1:36.64.
Returning $15 for a $2 win wager, Captain Bombastic, bred by the Bromans, remained unbeaten in two career starts after successfully winning his debut on September 28 at Belmont. Following Cleon Jones in second was Harris Bay, City Man, Three Jokers and Mission Wrapitup.
In Race 9, Peter Brant's Fifty Five captured the $200,000 Ticonderoga for the third consecutive year, earning millionaire status in the process, under a perfect ride from Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. Trained by Chad Brown, the 5-year-old Get Stormy bay settled in third position in the 1 1/16-mile inner turf test as Wish Upon led through splits of 24.19 and 48.20 on the course rated firm.
Wish Upon led a tightly-packed field of six into the turn as Castellano urged Fifty Five into contention outside of Kid Is Frosty and took aim at the leader. Moving comfortably down the lane, Fifty Five cruised beyond her rival to secure a one-length score in a final time of 1:40.76. Wish Upon completed the exacta, three-quarters of a length in front of a rallying War Canoe. Rounding out the order of finish were Munchkin Money, Kid Is Frosty and Broken Border. Dream Passage, Wegetsdamunnys and English Soul were scratched.
Bred by Empire Equines, Fifty Five banked $115,500 in victory to push her career earnings to $1,033,288 while improving her record to 11-4-5 from 22 starts. She paid $2.70.
Live racing resumes on Sunday at Belmont with a 10-race card highlighted by the Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia. First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.
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