Following a stutter-step start, Freedom Child splashed to a clear lead in the opening furlong and improved his position, winning the one turn nine furlongs by 13 ¼ widening lengths, stopping the timer in a worthy 1:49.09 and vaulting himself into the June 8 Belmont Stakes.
When last seen, Freedom Child was stuck in the Wood Memorial starting gate in the grasp of an assistant starter. When the race began his task was hopeless and the New York stewards, to their credit, declared him a non-starter.
A ridgling, he is a son of Malibu Moon, just like Kentucky Derby winning Preakness favorite, Orb, and like Shug McGaughey’s colt, he handled a sealed wet track with aplomb beneath Luis Saez, the South Florida star that has moved his tack to New York.
“I just put him in the race and he responded perfect,” said Saez in the winners’ circle. In the chute he wanted to run so I let him run. It was my first time winning a big race here. I’m so happy.” He wasn’t the only one.
“I was very pleased to see him win like that,” said trainer Tom Albertrani. I didn’t think he would actually draw away by that many lengths… There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ about what could have happened in the Wood but at least we have a nice horse. Hopefully, this might lead us to the Belmont.”
“We thought we were set to run well in the Wood; we just had a little bit of bad luck. The next day we put a circle around the Peter Pan,” said Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbreds group that owns him.
“We knew there were some quality horses in there but we thought if he had the chance to go down the backside on the lead and got his air, he’d be tough to beat.
“I think we’re going to go to the Belmont Stakes in about four weeks. I hope Orb runs well in the Preakness and the whole world is watching on [June 8] for the Belmont Stakes, and I hope we have the chance to upset the apple cart.”
If Orb runs well in Baltimore, Finley will get his wish. The whole world will be watching, the Malibu Moons and all the rest.