Marconi overcame a slow start to lead a talented six-horse field through a romping wire-to-wire score in Saturday's inaugural $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational at Belmont Park.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old Tapit colt broke poorly under Jose Lezcano in the 1 ½-mile marathon for 4-year-olds and upward, but quickly found his rhythm to take command through an opening quarter-mile in 25.23 seconds on the fast main track.
Marconi, the 7-5 mutuel favorite, maintained a steady pace down the backstretch as Roaming Union and Realm stalked through a half in 50.51 and three-quarters in 1:15.82.
You're to Blame saved ground in fourth position before advancing along the rail into the final turn with Rocketry waiting to launch his bid from the back of the pack. Never threatened, Marconi drew off comfortably down the lane for a three-length win in a final time of 2:28.07.
You're to Blame, also trained by Pletcher, found his best stride late to complete the exacta, 6 ¼-lengths in front of Realm. Rounding out the order of finish were Rocketry, Carlino and Roaming Union. Maraud and Highland Sky were scratched.
Marconi has now won three-of-four starts at Belmont, including scores in the Flat Out and Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational at extended distances.
Byron Hughes, assistant to Pletcher, said the talented grey has found his home in marathon events.
“He seems to like this race course,” said Hughes. “He didn't break real sharp, but Jose did a good job of getting him up there and getting him in a comfortable rhythm. It wasn't ideal but when I saw the first fractions in 25 and change, I got a little more comfortable. He was able to pull away there from the group at the top of the stretch and win nicely.”
Lezcano said he was pleased with the trip he engineered for Marconi.
“My horse broke a little slow. After that, I had to get him where we wanted to be towards the front,” said Lezcano. “The horse inside didn't want to go, so I went to the lead and he stayed the same the whole way around. He got into a good rhythm and once he got going, he was comfortable.”
Bred in Kentucky by Brushwood Stable, Marconi banked $165,000 in victory while improving his record to 5-2-1 from 12 starts. He paid $4.90 for a $2 win ticket.
By Tapit, Marconi is out of the Ponche broodmare Ponche de Leona, who also produced 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man. He is owned by Bridlewood Stable, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor. He was purchased for $2 million from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016.
Live racing resumes on Sunday at Belmont with a 9-race card highlighted by the $100,000 Allied Forces. First post is 1 p.m.
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