Robert LaPenta's March put in a late rally on the inside to just nose out Cinco Charlie in the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes Saturday at Belmont Park. Odds-on favorite Competitive Edge was third on the backstretch but faded on the far turn to finish last.
Breaking well under jockey Irad Ortiz, March took aim at the leaders at the top of the Belmont stretch and surged late to win his first race since the G3 Bay Shore April 4 at Aqueduct. They were 5 1/2 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Ready for Rye. March, off at 10-1, paid $22.80 to win.
“Last time I liked the way he ran in the sprint race [Bay Shore],” said Ortiz. “Today he broke a little more sharp, so we were a little closer. I just left him there, I don't fight with him too much. When we got to the stretch he took off. He was ready, the trainer did a great job.”
Final time for seven furlongs was 1:21.37 after opening fractions of :22.22 and :45.04.
Chad Brown trains March, who has three wins in five starts. The colt, by Blame out of Lifeinthefastlane (Unbridled's Song), was purchased from breeder Lakland Farm as a weanling for $320,000 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in 2012.
“Irad rode a perfect race,” Brown said. “This horse had been training really well, and we've figured out a few things about this horse. Obviously, the distance – he's a come-from-behind sprinter – and he runs really well fresh. He came off a layoff in the Bay Shore, and he ran so well we figured 'You know, let's just give him another layoff into the big race.'
“When it came up tough, we were really just hoping to grab a piece of it, and like races often can on big racing days, when they broke, everything changed. We were in a great spot, and our horse showed up.”
Previously undefeated Competitive Edge had won all of his races by dominant margins and entered the Woody Stephens off a victory in the G3 Pat Day Mile on Derby Day at Churchill Downs. The colt started a little slowly and was caught between horses entering the far turn. He launched a mild bid but soon dropped back to finish at the rear of the field.
“He didn't try very much at all. That's it. I was in tight, but it didn't really matter. I couldn't hold my position,” said John Velazquez, who rode Competitive Edge.
“He didn't seem to fire and I have no good explanation for it,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “He was undefeated coming in and tasted defeat today. We'll regroup.”
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