Katherine G. Ball’s LIMOUSINE LIBERAL got up to stick his neck in front on the wire in the $343,000 Belmont Sprint Championship (G2) at Belmont Park on Saturday. The race is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series and awarded the six-year-old gelding an all-fees paid spot in the Breeders’ Cup TwinSpires Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on November 3.
First though, the Ben Colebrook trainee had to overcome a wide and bumpy trip in the Belmont Sprint Championship.
Shaft of Light sped to the early lead through splits of :22.22 and :44.84 while Limousine Liberal found himself near the rear of the six-horse field under jockey Jose Ortiz. Swinging four wide heading into the lane, he was bumped by Shaft of Light and in turn bumped Lewisfield after Whitmore bullied his way up the inside in an attempt to grab control of the race.
Limousine Liberal regained his stride and hooked up with Whitmore and new leader Eye Luv Lulu in the lane, inching forward in the shadow of the wire to get his neck on the line first. Sent off the 9-5 favorite, he returned $5.70 for finishing seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:21.53.
Whitmore suffered his second straight neck loss after being beaten in the True North Stakes (G3) on June 8 going 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park. Eye Luv Lulu was 1 3/4 lengths behind in third in Saturday’s contest and Lewisfield filled the fourth spot another three lengths behind. Favorable Outcome and Shaft of Light completed the order of finish.
Limousine Liberal is now 9-6-4 from 23 career starts and has banked $1,645,261 in lifetime earnings. He boasts six stakes victories, including back-to-back editions of the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2), and 10 graded placings. The dark bay son of Successful Appeal entered this one off a third-place run in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on June 9 and filled that same spot in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga last July.
Bred in Kentucky by Mike and Katherine Ball, Limousine Liberal is out of the In Excess mare Gift of Gab.
BELMONT SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP QUOTES
Ben Colebrook, trainer Limousine Liberal, winner
“I could see (jockey) Jose (Ortiz) had a ton of horse and I knew he was going to make his run. I didn’t want the wire to come too soon because he was coming with a big run. I’m just glad he proved he can win outside the state of Kentucky. I thought we were in the right place. I thought maybe we’d be ahead of Whitmore, maybe not so far back, but they went so fast.
“Jose knew where to have him. It’s taken me so long to find the winner’s circle in New York I’m just happy for this. We’d have to think about the (August 25) Forego ([G1] at Saratoga) next but we were going to go to the Breeders’ Cup even if we had to pay our own way in.”
Jose Ortiz, jockey Limousine Liberal, winner
“He wasn’t pulling me like he usually does, so I thought they were going too fast. They went :44 and it paid off in the end. I didn’t expect Whitmore to be in front of me, so I decided to follow. I knew my horse was going to have something for the end. He decided to go the rail. I thought he was a little tired, so I went outside. But I’m glad I didn’t have to check hard and I’m (happy) I was able to win the race.”