And when Hennig decided to send the 3-year-old son of El Prado directly into stakes company in his next start, the result was exactly the same. Under a ground-saving ride from Javier Castellano, Wesley rallied through the stretch with a powerful late kick to take the 24th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes Monday at Saratoga Race Course.
In the Hall of Fame, Castellano allowed Wesley to linger at the back of the pack t as Thou Swell took the field through unhurried fractions of 24.17, 49.38 and 1:14.77 over the firm turf course. Moving between horses on the turn, Wesley came wide heading into the lane and swept into the lead inside the sixteenth pole for the half-length victory over Thou Swell.
His winning time of the mile and one sixteenth was 1:50.22.
“Beautiful, just like it was supposed to be,” said Castellano. “I thought I’d be closer to the pace but the way he broke, he just sat there, and made one move. Beautiful.”
Deal Making closed to gain third, a half-length in front of even-money favorite Adriano, who ran into traffic and did not get clear until too late.
“He was in good position,” said Bill Mott, a five-time winner of the Hall of Fame Stakes and trainer of the beaten favorite. “When it came time for him to run, he lacked room.”
Echoed jockey Edgar Prado, who was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame earlier in the day: “We had a nice trip until the quarter pole. We were down on the inside and had no place to go.”
It was the third victory in seven starts and second straight on the turf for Wesley, who earned $90,000 for Willmott Stables. A $450,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sales, Wesley made but one start as a 2-year-old, finishing fourth behind Coal Play at Belmont Park. He broke his maiden in his fourth start at Aqueduct in April, but was no factor when he finished fifth behind Roman Emperor and eventual Belmont Stakes winner Da’ Tara in the Barbaro Stakes on Preakness Day.
The second choice in the field of seven, Wesley returned $8.70 for a $2 win bet.
“Once we moved up on even terms with Adriano and we had momentum going around the second turn, I was relieved,” said Hennig. “I was hoping it was not too long of a run (down the stretch) for him. I think he’ll move forward for this. We’ll have to look at our options to see where he goes from here.”
Completing the order of finish behind Adriano were Field Sport, Picou and Willsboro Point.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF RACING HALL OF FAME QUOTES
Winning trainer Mark Hennig of Wesley (No. 1): “He’s bred for the grass. I think he was struggling with the dirt course. He has always trained like a graded stakes horse. We had aspirations of him being a nice three-year-old on dirt. We were disappointed with a couple of his races on dirt. Sometimes with those horses, when you move them to the grass, they move forward.
“Once we moved up on even terms with Adriano and we had momentum going around the second turn, I was relieved. I was hoping it was not too long of a run (down the stretch) for him. I think he’ll move forward for this. We’ll have to look at our options to see where he goes from here.”
Winning jockey Javier Castellano: “Beautiful. Just like it was supposed to be. I thought I’d be closer to the pace but the way he broke, he just sat there, and made one move. Beautiful.”
Bill Mott, trainer of beaten favorite Adriano (No. 2): “He was in good position. When it came time for him to run, he lacked room.”
Edgar Prado, jockey aboard Adriano: “We had a nice trip until the quarter pole. We were down on the inside and had no place to go.”