ELMONT, N.Y. -- Alan Garcia literally and figuratively fell into a Grade 2 stakes winner Saturday at Belmont Park.
One race after he was dumped following a winning ride in an allowance race, Garcia, overcoming what he admittedly said was not one of his better rides, got Al Khali switched to the outside in the final furlong and the colt came with a flying finish to win the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap by a neck over 3-5 favorite Winchester, who got second by a head over Simmard.
Garcia picked up the mount on Al Khali when his scheduled mount, Grand Couturier scratched from the Bowling Green and when Julien Leparoux -- named to ride Al Khali -- had to take off his Saturday mounts at Belmont to ride Informed Decision at Presque Isle Downs Saturday night.
Al Khali was fifth down the backside, racing inside of Winchester while Strike a Deal raced uncontested on the lead through fractions of 23.16 seconds, 49.31, and 1:14.84 for six furlongs.
Winchester, under Cornelio Velasquez, launched a wide bid around the turn, while Garcia stayed patient on Al Khali. Coming into the stretch, however, Al Khali was stuck behind horses and approaching the eighth pole had to steady while Winchester and Simmard were moving toward Strike a Deal.
Inside the eighth pole, Garcia was able to get Al Khali into the clear and the duo came with a furious finish to get up in the final two strides. Al Khali, a son of Medaglia d'Oro owned by Wachtel Stable and Brous Stable and trained by Bill Mott, covered the 1 3/8 miles over firm turf in 2:15.23 and returned $7.30 as the second choice.
"I don't think it was one of the best races I rode but the horse he was the best today," Garcia said.
Garcia was dumped by his mount, Hear the Footsteps, returning to the winner's circle after winning the eighth race. Garcia said his neck was bothering him.
"It still hurts, but I'm happy," Garcia said after the Bowling Green.
Mott was happy too after the race, but not so much at the eighth pole.
"At the eighth pole I quit watching," Mott said. "I was telling the guys I was sitting with this is horrible."
Winchester's loss spoiled an otherwise good day for trainer Christophe Clement, who won two other races on the card.
"He ran well, he got beat, well done to the winner," Clement said. "Let's hope he can move up from that race and we'll go to another spot in three or four weeks."
Aces Mark finishes second
Aces Mark, the 6-year-old gelding named in honor of two National Hockey League scouts killed during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length in the eighth race.
Aces Mark made the lead in upper stretch under John Velazquez, but couldn't hold off Hear the Footsteps. Aces Mark is named for Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis, who were on United Airlines flight 175 from Boston, which crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
"He ran his eyeballs out," said Lew Mongelluzzo, another NHL scout and proprietor of Team Power Play Racing, which owns Aces Mark. "To get to this day was big for us, for those guys, Ace and Mark, and their families. It would have been great to win but you know what we're just happy to get here at this time."