Friday, June 10, 2011

BROOKLYN HANDICAP (G2)/POKER (G3) RECAP: Friday, June 10, 2011

ELMONT, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott swept Friday’s graded stakes at Belmont Park, finishing first and second in the Grade 2, $150,000 Brooklyn Handicap Presented by Ram with Birdrun and Drosselmeyer and capturing the Grade 3, $100,000 Poker with Courageous Cat.

Birdrun seized the lead entering the clubhouse turn and maintained a clear advantage while setting fractions of 49.71, 1:13.88, and 1:38.21 while being shadowed by Drosselemeyer, who moved in tandem with Alma d’Oro to challenge for the lead with three furlongs remaining. The pacesetter had plenty in reserve, however, turning back those bids and widening his lead in the stretch to win by 3 ¾ lengths.

The Brooklyn reversed the form of the One Count overnight stakes at Belmont on May 15. In that race, Drosselmeyer, last year’s Belmont Stakes winner, edged Birdrun by a neck.

“[Drosselmeyer] only beat us a neck the last time and the race today kind of played in my favor,” said winning jockey Rajiv Maragh. “It all worked out well; my horse ran hard all the way, and he came home victorious. This field was bred to go a mile-and-a-half.”

Birdrun, a son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, improved his record to 6-6-1 from 19 starts, and completed 1 ½ miles in 2:02.94. He returned $7.30 for a $2 win wager as the 5-2 co-second choice.

“We thought [Birdrun would] be on the lead,” said Mott. “Last time, he was on the lead at a mile and a quarter. Drosselmeyer rolled up at the quarter pole, but didn’t fire his best shot today. Both horses deserved to run today. Birdrun broke his maiden for $35,000 at Saratoga. We’re lucky we didn't lose him.”

Owned by Preston Stables, Birdrun was bred in Florida by Arthur I. Appleton. His Brooklyn victory, worth $90,000, lifted his career earnings to $372,944.

Alma d’Oro finished third, a half-length ahead of Eldaafer. Afleet Again trailed throughout.

A race earlier, heavily favored Courageous Cat made his 2011 debut a winning one for Mott as he wore down longshot Yield Bogey in the stretch to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Poker by 2 ¼ lengths.

Under a confident ride by Jose Lezcano, Courageous Cat ran in second as the 7-year-old Yield Bogey opened up a sizeable lead down the backside through a quarter-mile in 24.63 seconds and a half-mile in 49.77. Reeling in the pacesetter approaching the far turn, Courageous Cat ranged up on the outside at the top of the stretch and took command with a furlong to go.

His time for the mile was 1:36.69 over a Widener turf course labeled “good.”

“He sat in a good spot, and I waited for as long as I could,” said Lezcano. “I wasn’t worried about [Yield Bogey]. I let him go and waited to make my move.”

It was the first start for the 5-year-old son of Storm Cat since he finished third behind Gio Ponti in last October’s Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. The Shadwell Turf Mile was only the third start of 2010 for Courageous Cat, who won the Grade 3 Canadian Turf in February and subsequently finished ninth in the Grade 1 Dubai Duty Free at Meydan in March.

“Any time they come off a layoff and run that well, you’ve got to be pleased,” said Mott

The 4-5 favorite, Courageous Cat returned $3.60 for a $2 win bet and won $60,000 for his breeders and owners Pam and Martin Wygood. Overall, he is 5-2-2 from 12 starts with earnings of $781,300.

Yield Bogey, who was making his first start since finishing sixth in an overnight stakes at Belmont on October 10, was one length clear of Right One.

“He didn’t quit,” said Yield Bogey’s Hall of Fame jockey, Edgar Prado. “It was a very good effort coming off the layoff.”

Completing the order of finish were Beau Choix and Riviera Cocktail. Court Vision was scratched.

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