Woodford Racing LLC’s Engage easily lived up to his 1-2 favoritism in Saturday’s $147,000 Futurity Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park to kick off a stakes double for trainer Chad Brown and jockey Jose Ortiz.
One race later, Don Alberto Stables’ homebred Rubilinda just kept her nose in front on the wire of the $200,000 Pebbles Stakes to score at 6-5 for the duo.
Engage found himself in last under Ortiz early in the Futurity while running five and six wide. Red Peril led the way up front through splits of :22.52 and :45.76 while closely tracked by Mojovation.
Engage continued his wide path rounding the turn, circling all but one of his rivals to take command in the stretch. The bay son of Into Mischief drew off to be 3 1/2 lengths clear of runner-up Barry Lee while finishing six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:10.09.
“(He’s a) really nice horse,” Ortiz said. “The first time he ran, I knew he was a good horse that day and he came back and won and last week he worked tremendous. With the post that I had today, I knew he was going to be tough.
“When I asked him to go at the three-sixteenths, I got the hole and I went outside Johnny (Velazquez aboard Mojovation), he really exploded. He gave me a great turn of foot.”
It was another 4 3/4 lengths back to Mojovation in third, who held Red Peril to fourth by 1 1/2 lengths. Smooth B completed the order under the line.
Engage paid $3.10 for the Futurity win, which improved his career record to 3-2-1-0, $156,400. The bay juvenile finished second in his debut at Saratoga on August 5, but returned a month later to break his maiden at the Spa on September 4.
“He’s shown quite a bit of improvement in each of his starts,” Brown noted. “I was telling his owners in the paddock how much he’s filled out since his last race. This horse is in a growth spurt right now and I like the face we’ve kept him sprinting for now. Hopefully, he continues to develop physically and we’ll stretch him out as we go.
“I think the (November 5) Nashua ([G2] at Aqueduct) makes sense (at one mile) if we choose to bring him back in that time frame and keeping him one-turn for now. Going around two turns we’ll see how he develops.”
Bred in Kentucky by Woods Edge Farm LLC, Engage is out of the stakes-placed Speightstown mare Nefertiti, who is herself a daughter of multiple Grade 3 heroine Clearly a Queen.
In the Pebbles Stakes, Ortiz guided Rubilinda through a nine-strong field of fellow sophomore fillies on the firm Widener turf.
The jockey had a firm hold on the Frankel miss , who tugged hard for the opening half-mile as Sylphide posted fractions of :23.03, :46.46 and 1:10.91 on the front end. Rubilinda angled out four wide entering the turn and swept up to challenge the front runners.
Finally given free rein, Rubilinda charged home down the center of the track. She held the lead midway to the wire, but Party Boat and Thais were flying on the outside. Rubilinda dug deep and stretched out her neck to get her nose down on the wire for the win.
“She’s been a great filly since the first day I rode her,” Ortiz said. “She was very impressive in her debut. Stretching out to a mile has been a little complicated for me and her to get along, because she’s going to be a little keen. She trains like that in the morning, a little keen too.
“I think with this mile now and probably the next one, we’ll find a race for her,” he added. “I think it’s the perfect distance for her. Today, she learned a lot of things, she’s going to keep learning.”
The bay miss paid $4.40 while stopping the clock in 1:34.72. A head separated Party Boat and Thais, while Lido finished another 2 1/2 lengths behind in fourth. It was only a neck back to Sylphide and Scheme, who dead-heated for fifth. Completing the order of finish were Bellavais, Dynatail and Adorable Miss.
Rubilinda was making only her fourth career start in the Pebbles and doubled her lifetime earnings to $240,400. The Kentucky-homebred broke her maiden by 3 1/4 lengths at first asking on May 27, finished second in an allowance on July 9 and entered this contest off a half-length victory in the September 8 Christiecat Stakes. All of her starts have thus far come at Belmont Park.
“She ran well,” Brown said. “She was still a little green there down the lane, switching leads and such. (Ortiz) said when he pulled her into daylight a little earlier than she had been, she was pulling a little bit, so she still has some learning to do, but she ran good.”
Rubilinda is the first registered foal out of the listed-placed Invincible Spirit mare Rubina.