July 14, 2024

Far Bridge works out right trip in Belmont Derby; Maple Leaf Mel a first stakes winner for Giddings in Victory Ride

Far Bridge wins the 2023 Belmont Derby (Coglianese Photography)

The third stakes attempt was the charm for Far Bridge in Saturday’s $750,000 Belmont Derby (G1), as the second choice worked out a better trip than 2-1 favorite The Foxes and beat that European raider by one length in the 1 1/4-mile feature for three-year-olds.

Runner-up by a nose in the American Turf (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day and then a troubled second in the Pennine Ridge (G2) last month, Far Bridge was bumped leaving the gate in the Belmont Derby but still managed to attain a ground-saving position in eighth entering the first turn. He advanced to seventh, five lengths behind the pacesetting Mondego, down the backside

Roused when third in midstretch by jockey Jose Ortiz, Far Bridge was shifted off the inside and took aim at Mondego, wearing down that 41-1 outsider late. Far Bridge hit the wire in a time of 2:01.75 over the firm inner turf.

The Foxes, exiting a fifth-place finish in the Epsom Derby (G1), broke slow and raced in behind Far Bridge near the tail of the field. Lacking room in upper stretch while conceding the winner a couple of lengths, The Foxes uncorked his rally too late to contend for the win, though he edged Mondego for second in the final jump.

Completing the order of finish behind Mondego were Webslinger, Silver Knott, Mendelssohns March, Redistricting, Kalik, Wizard of Westwood, Cyber Ninja, and Boppy O.

Owned by LSU Stables, Far Bridge returned $8.70. He’s trained by Todd Pletcher, who took over from Christophe Clement after the colt was sold privately following maiden and allowance wins at Gulfstream over the winter.

“We got a fortunate trip today. Everything worked out,” Pletcher said. “We were able to save some ground pretty much around both turns, especially the far turn. We knew he had a good closing kick, we just needed to be in position to deliver it. I really liked the way he was moving around the turn and then when he got clear in the stretch, I knew he’d keep coming. We always felt like the added distance was going to be to his advantage.”

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Far Bridge is by English Channel and out of Fitpitcher, by Kitten’s Joy. Pletcher said Far Bridge is likely to reappear in the Aug. 5 Saratoga Derby (G1).

Trainer Melanie Giddings, who saddled the first two winners of her career at Presque Isle Downs on June 21, enjoyed her first career stakes win on Saturday when Maple Leaf Mel, a filly named for her, dominated the $175,000 Victory Ride (G3) for three-year-old fillies on the front end.

Maple Leaf Mel is a relatively new addition to the Giddings barn, though she’s a filly the conditioner was already familiar with. A Canadian by birth and a cancer survivor, Giddings was previously an assistant to Maple Leaf Mel’s former trainer, Jeremiah Englehart, who had saddled the gray to four victories in as many starts for the August Dawn Farm of Hall of Fame NFL coach Bill Parcells.

Maple Leaf Mel is now 5-for-5 after the 6 1/2-furlong Victory Ride, which she won uncontested on the front end by 2 1/2 lengths under Joel Rosario. Dazzling Blue finished second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Vahva. Interpolate, Downtown Mischief, Topsy, 3-2 favorite Red Carpet Ready, and Adeliese’s Smile completed the order of finish.

Maple Leaf Mel finished up in 1:15.74 over a fast track and paid $7.50.

“I was more nervous for the filly than myself. I don’t even feel like it’s about me. I just felt like she was 4-for-4 and I would just hate for her to have anything bad in her life. She’s been so good to me,” Giddings said.

Bred in New York by Joe Fafone, Maple Leaf Mel was a $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile purchase. Her first three wins came in state-bred company, including the Seeking the Ante S. at Saratoga and East View S. at Aqueduct, but she first flashed her open stakes credentials with a 1 1/2-length tally in the Miss Preakness (G3) at Pimlico on May 19.

By Cross Traffic, Maple Leaf Mel was produced by City Gift, by City Place.