On a memorable Saturday afternoon of racing at Belmont Park, older sprinters took the spotlight in a pair of 6 1/2-furlong graded stakes events.
First up was the Vagrancy H. (G3), in which half a dozen fillies and mares vied for the winner’s share of a $100,000 purse. The field was strong, featuring only proven stakes winners, but the results weren’t quite what bettors anticipated as Victim of Love sprang a 27-1 surprise under jockey Jose Lezcano, parlaying pace-pressing tactics into victory as the longshot shot in the field.
Such significant upsets usually involve a fair amount of drama, but Victim of Love’s triumph was achieved in straightforward fashion. Not even a sudden cloudburst could detract from the winner’s professional performance. When the gates opened, so did the skies, and rained poured down as longshot Jakarta sprinted to the front with Victim of Love in close pursuit through fractions of :22.47 and :45.49.
The blinding rainstorm may have been intense, but the pace was relaxed for the distance, so when Jakarta weakened at the top of the stretch, Victim of Love had plenty left to spurt clear of her pursuers. Grade 1 winner Come Dancing shot to the inside down the lane and attempted to reach even terms with the longshot leader, but Victim of Love never wavered and edged clear to score by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:16.27. Pacific Gale, Jakarta, Royal Charlotte, and Chalon trailed the field.
Todd Beattie conditions Victim of Love on behalf of Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. Daniel J. Burke bred the 4-year-old daughter of champion sprinter Speightstown, who was produced by the Awesome Again mare Spacy Tracy.
“The trainer told me to break and try to keep her busy. She broke a little bit behind, but with a tap on the shoulder, she jumped right there on the bridle,” Lezcano told the New York Racing Association. “When I asked her, she really took off. My filly kept going the whole way around and never stopped. She gave me everything she had.”
An hour later—with considerably better weather in play—Firenze Fire delivered as the 11-10 favorite in the True North (G2), nabbing $82,500 out of a purse of $150,000. Unlike Victim of Love, Firenze Fire was content to settle off the early pace as Yorkton and Stan the Man battled through splits of :22.84 and :45.85.
But the run down the stretch was little more than a stroll in the park for Firenze Fire, who responded readily to urging from Irad Ortiz to rally and defeat Stan the Man by 1 1/2 lengths in a snappy 1:15.53. Yorkton weakened to finish third, followed by Wicked Trick, Diamond King, and Midnightcharly.
“He did everything right. We broke and got into a good position and I was just waiting,” said Ortiz. “Turning for home, I asked him and he responded really well. We were close to the pace, but I just held him together. I didn’t want to be fighting, so I just tried to let him relax and he really responded when I asked.”
A Mr Amore Stables homebred, Firenze Fire was securing his 10th career stakes win, though his first for trainer Kelly Breen. A son of Poseidon’s Warrior out of the Langfuhr mare My Every Wish, Firenze Fire pushed his earnings to $1,939,250, with the multi-million mark almost certain to follow in the near future.
Firenze Fire entered the True North off a fourth-place effort in the June 6 Carter H. (G1) at Belmont, his first start off a four-month layoff. Wheeling back on short rest clearly worked wonders for the Florida-bred colt.
“For sure, he needed that last race,” said Breen. “I think the track had something to do with it last time out. He ran fast. He’s run fast races before. He’s a nice horse. When things click like that, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Breen indicated a start at Saratoga could be next on the agenda for Firenze Fire, with the Breeders’ Cup looming as the ultimate goal. An appearance in the Nov. 6-7 championship at Keeneland would mark Firenze Fire’s fourth appearance in the Breeders’ Cup; the durable and versatile 5-year-old finished seventh in the 2017 Juvenile (G1), fourth in the 2018 Dirt Mile (G1), and fifth in the 2019 Sprint (G1).