The 1 1/8-mile event produced a small field of six. Three are nominated to the Triple Crown series and are eligible for the Preakness (gr. I) in one month's time.
Etude, on a three-race winning streak since breaking his maiden when blinkers were added Jan. 3 following three runner-up tries, is one of the Triple Crown nominees. Trained by Richard Small, the gray Include colt has not been worse than second in his six starts and has banked $102,240. All of the Maryland bred's previous starts have come at Laurel.
“I think the race is sort of a logical progression, a little longer, a little more difficult, so the horse should be ready for it," Small said. “I think really the horse just figured it out. I think giving him blinkers gives it more credit than they truly deserve. The horse figured it out by himself. He’s focused more and he’s made big improvement in his races.”
Luis Garcia took over on Etude when the colt broke his maiden and has ridden him in each of his victories since, which have been by a combined 17 1/2 lengths. They won the one-mile Private Terms by 5 3/4 lengths on March 24.
Paraneck Stable's Pink Viper, who shares top weight of 120 pounds with Etude, has not beaten a horse in his last two starts since upsetting Aqueduct's Count Fleet Jan. 6. The Smoke Glacken colt was well beaten in both the Whirlaway at Aqueduct and Turfway Park's Rushaway for trainer Joseph DeMola.
Circle Z stables' Xchanger hasn't won since taking last September's Sapling (gr. III) at Monmouth and is coming off a disappointing swing through Arkansas for conditioner Mark Shuman. The son of Exchange Rate ran fifth, beaten four lengths by Teuflesberg, in the Southwest Feb. 19, then set the pace before weakening to be seventh in the Rebel (gr. III) a month later. Ramon Dominguez gets the call this time.
The New York-bred Belly Rub has won three consecutive races over state breds to begin his career at Aqueduct this year for trainer Dove P. Houghton, who hands the reins to Jeremy Rose Saturday.
Saratoga Lulaby finished gamely to be second to Etude in the Private Terms after pressing the pace for the first half of the race.
$125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes (Race 8, 4:26 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Belly Rub (NY), 116, Jeremy Rose
2. Etude (MD), 120, Luis Garcia
3. Saratoga Lulaby (KY), 116, Dyn Panell
4. Pink Viper (KY), 120, (No Rider)
5. Xchanger (FL), 116, Ramon A. Dominguez
6. Zephyr Cat (KY), 116, Ryan Fogelsonger