Ridden by John Velazquez, Upgrade got the jump on his rival coming off the turn and made the advantage hold up by three-quarters of a length after getting the lead in the final furlong from pacestting Yield Bogey. The winning 5-year-old son of Saint Liam covered seven furlongs on the Widener course in 1:21.25 over firm ground at odds of 5-1.
Upgrade is trained by Michelle Nihei for owner Dennis Narlinger.
Mike Anderson Thoroughbreds bred the bay gelding, who is out of the Fit to Fight mare Emily Ring, in Kentucky.
Upgrade was coming off a fifth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT) on a yielding turf at Belmont May 5 when he set the pace before weakening.
“This horse really has deserved this from the day he walked into the barn," Nihei said. "It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster with that last race. The stretch out was a little bit too long for him."
Six contested the Jaipur after two scratches.
Upgrade broke with leaders before settling in mid-pack behind Yield Bogey toward the inside.
Yield Bogey led Boots Ahead by one length through quarter-mile splits of :23.06 and :45.56 with 8-5 choice Bergerac also prominent in third on the outside. The French-bred Right One, the second favorite at 9-5 odds, trailed the closely bunched field down the backstretch.
Upgrade shuffled back to next-to-last rounding the turn but Velazquez remained patient before finding a seam between horses in upper stretch. Upgrade split rivals to reach contention on the outside and took command just past the furlong marker. He finished with good energy under some left-handed urging to hold off Right One.
“He was going really well the whole way around," Velazquez said after riding Upgrade for the first time. "I was just hoping I’d get a little room to get him running. After that, he was pretty good. I pulled him out, and I worked him, and he did it pretty easily.”
Right One, who saved ground at the back of the pack through the turn, swung widest in the lane for Julien Leaproux and finished strongly while unable to reach equal terms with the winner. Right One, who defeated Yield Bogey by a head in last year's Jaipur, finished 2 1/2 lengths clear of the pacesetter this time.
Yield Bogey finished a head in front of Bergerac with Boots Ahead and Leave of Absence trailing.
Upgrade won for the first time in three starts on the Belmont turf. The consistent horse had finished in the money in eight consecutive races before the Fort Marcy.
His career mark now stands at 5-7-2 in 17 races with earnings of $283,456.
Upgrade carried 118 pounds and paid $12, $4.80, and $3.20 as the third choice. Right One, the 122-pound high weight for trainer Christophe Clement, returned $3.60 and $2.70 and rounded out a $40.20 exacta. Yield Bogey, making his first start of the year for trainer Pat Kelly, was $4.80 to show.