Celestine best in Just a Game

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Bill Mott won his third stakes and his second Grade 1 of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival when Celestine parlayed a beautiful stalking trip into a 3-3/4-length victory.

Mott won the $196,000 Belmont Coronation Invitational with Suffused on Thursday, the first day of the festival, and on Saturday won the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn with Carina Mia and the Grade 1, $700,000 Just a Game with Celestine.

Celestine had a nice 3-year-old season in 2015, winning three small stakes as part of a four-race winning streak. In her start prior to the Just a Game, she scored a 3-1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Honey Fox at Gulfstream.

Celestine broke on top in the 13-horse Just a Game, a one-mile turf race for fillies and mares. She settled off the pacesetting La Berma, tracked her to the stretch, and then took command of the race.

Her final time of 1:31.64 was one-hundredth of a second off the Widener turf-course record set by Elusive Quality in the 1998 Poker Stakes. Elusive Quality also was trained by Mott. "That was a world record at the time," he said.

Celestine paid $17 as the fourth choice in the race. She is now 6 for 12 for owner James Bryan Jr.

"She's gotten better as time has gone on," Mott said of Celestine. "She was rating well and looked very comfortable out there today."

Mott said he had no immediate plans in mind for Celestine's next race.

Recepta ran well for second. She saved ground to the stretch and finished with a good bid, although she was unable to threaten the winner.

Mrs McDougal, a narrow 7-2 favorite over Recepta, raced to Recepta's outside to the stretch turn, then had to swing outward for racing room in upper stretch. She was just up to take third from Lady Lara.

Lady Laura was one of two other horses in the race trained by Mott. Lady Lara is in foal to Uncle Mo. Mott's third horse, My Miss Sophia, raced in good early position but tired to finish last.

The front-running La Berma finished ninth.