by Teresa Genaro
On the first tolerably pleasant day in New York after a week-long heat wave, Firenze Fire brought the sizzle to the $300,000 Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park.
With plenty of other storylines in the race – Mendelssohn coming back to the United States after finishing last in the Kentucky Derby (G1), his stablemate and longshot Seahenge along for the ride, Noble Indy trying to shrug off the bad taste left in the mouth of his connections following a dismal and controversial last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1) – Firenze Fire got little advance notice coming into the race. He’d last run in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 11th, and he hadn’t won since the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct in January.
Nonetheless, owner/breeder Ron Lombardi of Mr. Amore Stable took his cue from trainer Jason Servis and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., both of whom told Lombardi not to worry about those higher-profile horses.
“They said he was ready,” Lombardi explaind in the winner’s circle. “I asked if Jason was worried about anybody, and he said, ‘I’m not worried about anything.’”
Firenze Fire broke alertly from post 7 and quickly ceded the lead, dropping back to fifth heading up the backstretch of the one-mile Dwyer. Racing in the clear and on the outside, Ortiz let Mendelssohn and Noble Indy duke it out in the early going. Circling the field coming around the final turn, Firenze Fire cruised by his rivals and drew off to win by nine lengths.
“I expected him to run a big race,” Ortiz said, “but I didn’t think he’d gallop out like that. I’m so happy to see the way he did it.”
“It was so easy it was just amazing,” Lombardi said. “We’ve got lots of thinking to do now.”
“I’ve been dying to cut him back, just dying,” Servis told the New York Racing Association. “We got on the Derby trail, like you’re supposed to do. Do we think he’s a mile and a quarter horse? Probably not. But now we’re getting him where he needs to be.”
Out of the Langfuhr mare My Every Wish, Firenze Fire is a Florida homebred. His win in the Dwyer gives him an impressive quartet of wins in some of New York’s most prestigious and historic races. In addition to the Dwyer and the Jerome, the three-year-old son of Poseidon’s Warrior has won the Sanford (G3) at Saratoga and Champagne (G1) at Belmont, his best wins coming at a mile.
But the ease with which the bay colt won has Lombardi thinking additional distance, and maybe even leaving New York, where the horse has done so well.
“I think the Haskell ([G1] on July 29) is a little too soon,” he said. “I’d love to run in the Haskell because I’m from New Jersey.”
Other races under consideration are the July 28 Jim Dandy (G2) and August 25 H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga, and maybe even the Travers (G1), also on August 25.
“Most likely,” the owner said, “he’ll run in Saratoga. I was thinking seven-eighths to a mile for him, but he did this so easy, so maybe the Travers.”
Seven Trumpets closed to finish second in the Dwyer, with Mendelssohn a half-length back in third. Rugbyman came next, followed by Seahenge, Fixedincome and Noble Indy, who faded to finish last in the seven-horse field.
T.J. Comerford, assistant to Mendelssohn’s trainer Aidan O’Brien, said, “Aidan was very happy with him. He thinks it was a great start since Kentucky and he thinks we can build on it.”
Comerford mentioned that the September 22 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) is likely “in the pipeline” for the Scat Daddy colt.