by J. Keeler Johnson
Dropping in class and distance made all the difference for Promises Fulfilled in Saturday’s $300,000 John A. Nerud Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park, as the chestnut had little difficulty defeating six rivals in the seven-furlong sprint.
Following a series of gallant but ultimately fruitless defeats against tough company in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) and Metropolitan Handicap (G1), Promises Fulfilled found a much easier spot in the John A. Nerud, where he ranked as the lone Grade 1 winner in the field.
Furthermore, the son of Shackleford was one of just two front runners among the Nerud starters, and when his expected pace rival Killybegs Captain stumbled at the start, Promises Fulfilled was able to secure a clear and uncontested lead while posting slow fractions of :23.16 and :46.09.
This unexpected advantage proved insurmountable. Warrior’s Club gamely tried to give chase, and Killybegs Captain briefly reached contention after unleashing a big mid-race move, but Promises Fulfilled kicked away with authority turning for home and pulled clear down the lane to prevail by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:21.75. Warrior’s Club narrowly out-fought Killybegs Captain to secure the runner-up spot by a neck.
“He broke so sharp. He always breaks sharp. The last time, he missed the break, but today he broke so clean, he was right there,” winning jockey Luis Saez said. “When he came to the stretch, and he switched leads, he was running. I still had a lot of horse. It’s very hot today. He got a little tired when he crossed the wire, but that’s normal.”
Trainer Dale Romans, who conditions Promises Fulfilled for owner Robert J. Baron, took note of the tactical advantage his colt enjoyed. “It didn’t look like there was much speed and when (Killybegs Captain) missed the break, that left him out there,” Romans said. “He was going to be hard to beat if no one pressed him. He hadn’t had that slow of a pace in his life. Look at the horses he’s been running against; this race finally gave him a bit of class relief. But this should set him up well.”
By winning the John A. Nerud, Promises Fulfilled secured a “Win & You’re In” berth to the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita. The victory marked Promises Fulfilled’s fifth success in graded company, though his signature victory remains the 2018 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
Speaking of Saratoga, Promises Fulfilled seems destined to return to the Spa this summer. The July 27 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) might be coming up a bit quick, but the August 24 Forego Stakes (G1) could be a logical end-of-summer target for Promises Fulfilled, especially since the Forego is held over seven furlongs.
“Where we go next, we’ll have to sit down and figure it out,” Romans added. “He can make a mile. There’s just a good group of horses running three-quarters and a mile. We’ll get that all figured out.”