Pat On the Back, owned by Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables, surged to a half-length score in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park, pushing his earnings to more than $1.1 million.
The 5-year-old Congrats chestnut, trained by Jeremiah Englehart, had won seven stakes against fellow New York-breds heading into the Kelso, where he prevailed to make the grade in his 26th career start.
Englehart said his assistant trainer Axelle Solares and team have taken extra care to ensure the now millionaire New York-bred is in peak condition.
“He's still battling foot issues,” said Englehart. “My blacksmith and staff have done a great job. He, and my assistant, Axelle, they go over his feet every day. You just hope that he stays happy and stays together and we can go on from there.”
Solares was part of a proud Englehart team who saddled and cheered home Pat On the Back on Saturday. She said the staff works hard to keep the horse in pristine condition.
“'Pat' has ingrown heels and they can get irritated. He's a chestnut and has sensitive skin and we've had to deal with a quarter-crack in the past,” said Solares. “It's a lot of work for his groom, Carlos, to keep his feet clean. His groom and the blacksmith do a great job keeping him well.”
Pat On the Back returned to a hero's welcome in the winner's circle on Saturday.
“He's the best horse we have in the barn,” said Solares. “I've been working with him since he arrived here and we've made a lot of progress with him. It was very emotional. He won a Grade 2 and he's a New York-bred. He's shown everyone he can be competitive.”
Pat On the Back, bred by Sugar Maple Farm, boasts a record of 6-3-2 from 11 starts at Belmont with $830,750 in purse earnings. Solares said racing at Belmont is a significant homefield advantage for their star pupil.
“He loves Belmont,” said Solares. “It doesn't matter what we ask of him – as soon as we say Belmont, we know he's going to show up. He's won at six furlongs, at a mile and now going open company. I'm very happy for him. Now, he's a Grade 2 winner and it will have a huge impact on his stallion career.”
Solares said that Pat On the Back was in very good order on Sunday morning.
“He's very happy and very proud. He's always feeling like a gorilla the day after he wins,” said Solares.
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