Arthur B. Hancock III's even-money choice Wanderin Boy exploited his early speed to trounce the field in the $158,500 Brooklyn Breeders's Cup Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Belmont Park.
The Nick Zito-trained 5-year-old homebred son of Seeking the Gold
took the lead soon after the start from his extreme outside post and dominated the proceedings from there, opening up a 4 1/2-length lead at the furlong marker. Under regular rider Javier Castellano, Wanderin Boy finished safely clear by 1 1/2 lengths over the late charging Awesome Twist. The final time in the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:47 4/5 on a fast track.
"My horse likes to be nice and easy on the lead," Castellano said.
Carrying top weight of 117 pounds in the field of six, Wanderin Boy set modest fractions along the inside of :23 2/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10 1/5 while Reverberate and Jose Santos tracked in second. Wanderin Boy was roused in upper stretch to leave his field behind. He won driving.
The race's complexion changed quite a bit due to trainer Richard Violette Jr.'s scratch of Take the Bluff, who was expected to challenge Wanderin Boy on the pace.
"The first quarter and second quarter were kind of slow," Castellano noted. "I was happy when I saw the scratch. It worked out good. I went to the lead and set a slow pace. "
Awesome Twist, racing along the inside for Edgar Prado, angled out for the stretch run and took second by 3 1/2 lengths over Reverberate.
Funny Cide, who could not keep up with the leaders down the backstretch, rallied on the turn but flattened out and finished three-quarters of a length behind in fourth place.
Wanderin Boy faded to sixth in his last start, Saratoga's Whitney Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 5. He earned his first grade II victory Saturday and is unbeaten in two starts at Belmont Park, where he won a one-mile optional claiming event in the mud June 25. He ran second as the 4-5 choice in the Pimlico Special (gr. I) earlier this year and has won four of his eight starts in 2006.
Saturday's win, Wanderin Boy's third in five attempts at the nine-furlong distance, was worth $95,700 and pushed his career bankroll to $498,259. His record is 7-3-1 in 13 starts. Wanderin Boy is out of the Pleasant Colony mare Vid Kid.
He paid $4, $3.30 and $2.40. Awesome Twist, who was advancing gamely in his first start at 1 1/8 miles, returned $7.20 and $4.10.
"He probably could have been a little closer here if Edgar wanted, but he said he didn't want to change his running style," trainer John Kimmel said of Awesome Twist. "I was very pleased with his race, being his first time going long. He really finished up nicely."
Prado got a pleasant surprise in his ride aboard Awesome Twist.
"At the top of the stretch, I thought I was going to be second, beaten about seven or eight lengths," Prado said. "His second kick really impressed me. I think he is only going to get better off this."
Reverberate, who ran second in both the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Peter Pan (gr. II) in 2005, was $4.20 to show.
Funny Cide was a neck in front of the 2-1 second choice Good Reward with the Chilean-bred We Can Seek last.