Odds-on favorites got the job done in both of Sunday’s stakes on closing day at Belmont Park, the Nashua (G3) for juveniles and the Zagora S. for turf distaffers.
As if stablemate Corniche needed complimenting after his Eclipse-clinching victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar, fellow Bob Baffert trainee Rockefeller upheld his form on the East Coast in the $150,000 Nashua (G3). The 4-5 favorite disposed of his pace rival in a convincing wire-to-wire display.
By Medaglia d’Oro and out of the Grade 1-winning Speightstown mare Dance to Bristol, Rockefeller had dominated on the front end in his six-furlong debut at Del Mar Aug. 28. He stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the Oct. 1 American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita, tiring to fourth behind Corniche and Pappacap. That turned out to be the key race for the Juvenile on Future Stars Friday, as the top two replicated that exacta in the Breeders’ Cup.
Back to one turn in the one-mile Nashua, Rockefeller found life easier away from Corniche. The bay wasn’t as fast as Speaking out of the gate, but sped forward on the rail to put his head in front passing the first quarter in :23.02. Rockefeller was industrious the rest of the way, increasing his advantage to a half-length by the half-mile in :46.75, a length at the six-furlong split in 1:11.61, and gaining daylight through the lane. His margin was up to 2 3/4 lengths at the wire in 1:36.66.
“I knew the other horses would break from there running,” Rockefeller’s new rider, Luis Saez, said, “but we have a lot of speed, so Bob told me to break from there and send him and see if they can keep with us. That was the plan, to break from there running. He kept at it. He’s a very talented horse. He’s still learning but he has a lot of talent. I think he’s going to be a nice horse. It was great to get the mount.”
Cooke Creek was best of the rest, and Judge Davis third, by the same 2 3/4-length margin. Midnight Worker, who loomed briefly on the far turn, flattened out in fourth. Cairama checked in fifth, and Speaking was a tailed-off last.
Rockefeller’s scorecard stands at 3-2-0-0, $142,500. The $750,000 Keeneland September yearling races for the consortium of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, and Robert E. Masterson.
Bred by Colts Neck Stables in Kentucky, Rockefeller descends from the family of Grade/Group 1 winners Chief Honcho, Poet’s Voice, Mozu Katchan, and Blair House. Further back, this is the maternal line of Exclusive Native.
Earlier on the closing-day card, 3-4 favorite Orglandes eventually wore down Beautiful Lover by a neck in the $150,000 Zagora S. Trained by Chad Brown, like the race honoree, the French import was winning for the first time since last November’s Red Carpet H. (G3) at Del Mar.
“It took her a while to come around this year,” Brown said. “I’m not so sure why she started off so poorly. We had to stop on her a couple times and just kind of get her back into form. She might just be a fall-time horse, but two good races in a row, and it’s nice to finally get a win especially named after a horse I trained, Zagora, so it was a nice win.”
Last of six in the May 1 Sheepshead Bay (G2), and sixth again in the Aug. 7 Glens Falls (G2), Orglandes turned the corner with a second in the Oct. 3 Waya (G3) to stablemate My Sister Nat. That form was boosted when My Sister Nat was a massive runner-up effort in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Under Irad Ortiz, who wrapped up the Belmont riding title Sunday, Orglandes was settled about midpack on the inside. Front-running Candy Flower set leisurely fractions of :24.92, :49.63, 1:15.10, and 1:40.61 on the firm Widener turf. Beautiful Lover made the first move to challenge and grabbed the lead in the stretch, but could not hold off the favorite. Orglandes made steady, workmanlike progress to prevail in 2:29.28 for 1 1/2 miles.
“The ground is a little loose around the turn,” Ortiz noted, “and I think and she’s much better on firm turf. She just kept finding herself in the turn when I asked her to run. It took a while to start going, honestly. But finally when she turned for home, she switched leads and gave me a little run and said ‘this is the time,’ and she got there in time.”
Beautiful Lover had three-quarters of a length to spare over third-placer Candy Flower. Hungry Kitten closed from last to miss third by a neck, followed by Lovely Lucky, Always Shopping, and Go Big Blue Nation.
Campaigned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, and Michael J. Caruso, Orglandes boosted her earnings to $306,985 from a 14-5-3-3 line. The daughter of Le Havre and the Dansili mare Influence was bred in France by S.A. Franklin Finance and Elisabeth Vidal.