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'Warrior' claims Bay Shore

BAY SHORE STAKES | PURSE: $250,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 7 FURLONGS

Lucky Shamrock Stable's homebred Declan's Warrior rallied late to defeat Clearly Now in Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Bay Shore at Aqueduct, posting a head decision in his stakes debut. Jose Lezcano guided the Nick Zito-trained winner.

A son of Majestic Warrior, Declan's Warrior entered the seven-furlong Bay Shore off a dead-heat win over optional claiming rivals going 7 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream Park on March 9. He won his career debut at Belmont Park last October, posting a 34-1 upset in a six-furlong maiden special weight, and finished a neck second in a 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer when making his three-year-old bow at Gulfstream in early February.

With the $150,000 payday, the colt has now earned $217,770 from his 4-3-1-0 record.

"What can I say? It's such a special day for me," Zito said. "My wife Kim, is the principal owner [of Lucky Shamrock Stable]. So it's a special day for us. She loves her horses. She keeps telling me, the ones that we breed, you have to give them good homes, don't put them in claiming races. I guess there should be more people like her.

"On the other hand, I'm glad this worked out and the people that stuck by me, I'm happy for them. I think he's just a beautiful horse. He's so consistent. He could be a special horse. Honestly, he could be better than we think. Let's just keep taking our time and go from there."

Declan's Warrior was overlooked at 12-1 and paid $26.40, $9.10 and $5.90 to his supporters.

Clearly Now won the pace battle, emerging with a clear lead in midstretch, but lost the war. The runner-up dueled with Retreive and Salutos Amigos through an opening quarter-mile in :22 and continued to wing along while three wide through the far turn, contesting a blistering half-mile in :44 3/5.

Declan's Warrior rated off the pace during the early stages, saving ground along the inside, and came off the rail approaching the conclusion of the far turn. He was about four lengths back in seventh with three furlongs remaining.

Clearly Now shook free from a pack of horses after straightening into the stretch, passing the three-quarters pole in 1:09 with a one-length advantage, and Declan's Warrior still had plenty of ground to make up with a furlong remaining. But he closed determinedly down the middle of the track to nail Clearly Now in the final strides, stopping the teletimer in 1:22.

"I was a little worried because there was so much speed to today, but I had to ride my horse the way he wants to run -- let him sit and try to catch them at the end," Lezcano said. "He did it. When I asked him the last part he really kicked good and won the race."

"First time he ran, breaking his maiden at Belmont, that's how he came. He came with a run," Zito explained. "I told Jose, don't take him out of his game, because that's a no-no. We've done that since we were kids, you know, you take a horse out their game, and it never works. In this particular situation, it worked out. The speed got going, and he got going in the end."

Clearly Now, the 3-1 second choice among nine rivals, finished three lengths clear of 13-1 third-placer The Truth and K G. Salutos Amigos, Honorable Dillon, Maleeh, Retreive, Clawback and Silver Morgan completed the order of finish.

Bred in Kentucky, Declan's Warrior is out of the winning Saint Ballado mare Comanche Star, which makes his a half-brother to stakes winner Canonize. His third maternal dam, Deceit, posted notable wins in the Mother Goose and Acorn in 1970 and compiled seven overall stakes victories. The successful broodmare is responsible for Canadian champion Deceit Dancer and graded/group stakes winners Nagurski and Diana Dancer.