MAN O' WAR STAKES | PURSE: $600,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 3/8 MILES (INNER TURF)
Phipps Stable's Boisterous became a Grade 1 winner July 13 at Belmont Park, threading his way between rivals to claim the $600,000 Man o' War Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths . Pan American Stakes winner Twilight Eclipse was second at odds of 8-1, while 22-1 shot Exclusive Strike finished third.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Boisterous came off a solid victory in the June 9 Monmouth Stakes to win the 1 3/8-mile Man o' War in a final time of 2:14.11 on the good inner turf. It is a race his sidelined stablemate Point of Entry took for the same connections in 2012, when Boisterous was wrapping up his 5-year-old season with back-to-back wins in the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Knickerbocker Stakes at Belmont, along with a runner-up effort in the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.
"I'm going to smile on this one, because this horse deserves to win a grade I," McGaughey said of the 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor . "He had been training so good. We kind of caught a turf today we liked. I was looking for a little bit of rain. I'm tickled to death, not for me, but for the horse."
Boisterous was well back fifth under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in a field of eight older horses as 88-1 shot Folk Singer sailed out to set solid early fractions of :23.44 and :48.07. He was tracked by Speaking of Which through three quarters in 1:13.06, then relinquished the lead to that one for a mile in 1:37.35.
Optimizer, 8-5 second choice under jockey Joel Rosario, was fourth on the inside and then shifted out to the four path for the run around the bend, but weakened during the drive. Twilight Eclipse had been third early on and made a strong move for the victory before being run down.
"I was anticipating it was going to be a little quicker, but I didn't think those three horses were going, so it set up perfect," Velazquez said of his ride aboard the eventual winner.
Boisterous came under urging at the five-sixteenths, angled four wide at the quarter pole, rallied to challenge with a furlong to go, took narrow command over Twilight Eclipse, and edged clear to prevail.
Sent off favored at odds of 3-2, the bay runner returned $5.10, $3.10, and $2.50. Twilight Eclipse paid $6.70 and $4.80, while Exclusive Strike brought $6.10. Finnegans Wake, Optimizer, Al Khali, Speaking of Which, and Folk Singer completed the order of finish.
Javier Castellano, aboard the runner-up, said he was pleased with the efforts of West Point Thoroughbreds' 4-year-old Purim runner, who came off a fifth over soggy ground in the June 8 Manhattan Handicap and may not have found this course exactly to his liking.
"At Gulfstream, he loved the hard ground," Castellano said. "The weather, you can't control it. The ground was a little soft, but I don't complain much because he gave me a good run. When I asked him, he responded so well in the last part of the race. I give credit to the winner. He was much the best today."
McGaughey said the next start for Boisterous could come in the Aug. 17 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Race Course, or in the Arlington Million at Arlington Park on the same day. The Aug. 25 Pacific Classic on the synthetic track at Del Mar was also listed as an option by the trainer. Last year, Boisterous finished ninth in the Million.
"When we get up there [to Saratoga], we'll see how he's doing," McGaughey said. "The Arlington Million I'm a little bit gun shy on, because I don't really understand why he ran bad there last year. Somebody said, 'He didn't run all that bad. He was ninth, beaten 5 ¾ lengths,' but he ran bad."
Boisterous, bred in Kentucky out of the Cox's Ridge mare Emanating, improved his record to 11-3-2 from 25 starts for earnings of $1,297,910. Among his other victories are the 2012 and 2011 editions of the Red Smith and the Knickerbocker, the 2012 Fort Marcy Stakes, and the 2011 Three Coins Up Stakes at Belmont. He started his season with a runner-up finish on Polytrack in the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland.