Belmont undercard full of success stories
By Jay Privman
Daily Racing Form
ELMONT, N.Y. - The remarkable Say Florida Sandy, better than ever at age 7, rallied boldly in the final quarter-mile and got up in time to capture the $150,000 True North Handicap for older horses. Six horses were stretched across the track inside the final furlong, but Say Florida Sandy outsprinted them all to win by a neck over Wake at Noon. Explicit, who set a blazing early pace and held on doggedly through the stretch, was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. The first six finishers were separated by two lengths at the wire. Men's Exclusive was sixth, with favored Hook and Ladder last in the field of eight.
Say Florida Sandy covered six furlongs on a fast main track in 1:08.77, equaling the third-fastest running of the True North. Say Florida Sandy, a son of Personal Flag, has won 26 times in 72 starts, and is 7 for 14 at Belmont Park. He was the 3-1 second choice and paid $8.70 to win. Juan Serey trains Say Florida Sandy for owner John Rotella.
Say Florida Sandy got a gorgeous ride from jockey Aaron Gryder. He let Say Florida Sandy lag behind the early pace, saved ground on the turn, then gradually tipped Say Florida Sandy to the middle of the track. Say Florida Sandy knifed through a tight hole without flinching.
"He really punched hard," Gryder said. "He's been amazing through the last year. All winter, he got better and better. He looked like he was in Florida. His coat looked good, and he kept gaining weight."
Say Florida Sandy is based at Aqueduct, where he raced 10 times in six months this winter. He has won five times in his last nine starts. He most recently had finished second in the Carter Handicap.
Hook and Ladder could not keep up with Explicit - who set blazing fractions of 21.40 and 43.67 seconds - and was done before the top of the stretch. "That was disappointing," said his jockey, Richard Migliore. "At the three-eighths, I knew I was in deep water." Trainer John Kimmel reported that Hook and Ladder came back bleeding from his right front foot.
Just a Game: License Fee by neck
Under Pat Day, License Fee was kept within striking distance of the early pace in the one-mile Just a Game. Crystal Sea, with Truebreadpudding in close attendance, showed the way through lively fractions of 22.83 seconds, 45.60, and 1:09.18.
License Fee came between horses to gain the lead late in the lane and then held off Shopping for Love, who put in a gritty performance at 15-1.
Day said License Fee, "was headed by [Shopping for Love], but found a seam and held her off gamely."
It was another half-length back to Veil of Avalon in third. Tippity Witch was fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Veil of Avalon.
The final time over a firm course was 1:32.62.
License Fee, who won the Sixty Sails and Gallorette Handicaps this spring, probably wouldn't have run in the Grade 3 Just a Game had Perfect Sting entered. Perfect Sting ran sixth later in the card against the boys in the Manhattan Handicap. Without her in the race, License Fee went off as the 2-1 favorite in the field of 11 fillies and mares.
License Fee ($6.60) carried 118 pounds as the Just a Game highweight.
Trained by Elliott Walden, License Fee had never started over the Belmont turf.
"She's just a great mare," Walden said in the winner's circle. "Right now, we're taking things one race at a time with her. So, we're going to enjoy today and regroup tomorrow."
It's expected that WinStar Farm, the owner of License Fee, will retire the 6-year-old daughter of Black Tie Affair at the end of the season. License Fee now has earnings of $1,200,416.
Riva Ridge: Exercise rider? Jockey!
Flame Thrower, trained by Bob Baffert, suffered a lateral condylar fracture of the left front cannon bone, according to chief examining veterinarian Neil Cleary, and was vanned off. He was expected to survive, although he will most likely require surgery.
Wynter, born in England and raised in the Caribbean, has had a relatively nondescript career as a jockey. He has been an exercise rider since the mid-1990's, but gets a few mounts from trainer Allen Jerkens and his son Jimmy.
According to Allen Jerkens, he summoned Wynter to get on Put It Back last summer because Wynter used to get on the colt's mother, Miss Shoplifter, who was a difficult horse to train.
Wynter has ridden Put It Back in all seven of his career starts, including a tough-trip second in his debut last summer at Saratoga. After finishing third in his second start, Put It Back is now 5 for 5 this year.
In the Riva Ridge, Put It Back broke strongly and opened up a length lead after an opening quarter in 21.98 seconds and was in front by three lengths after six furlongs in 1:08.59. Although Put It Back got leg weary late, he was able to hold off Flame Thrower by a neck.
"I saw the shadows of Jerry Bailey's horse out of the corner of my eye and I asked him again and he gave me just that little bit more," Wynter said. "It means everything to me, and [Jerkens] knows that too."
Put It Back covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.76 - the third-fastest Riva Ridge run - and returned $11.20 to win.
Jerry Bailey, the rider of Flame Thrower, said he felt his horse take "a funny step on the turn. I steadied him for a little bit, but he went back to running pretty smooth. . . . He started running again, really wanting to [run] so I get into him. But past the wire he pulled up."