Hardwicke Stable's Spite the Devil wore down Organizer inside the final furlong to win the $250,000 Empire Classic Handicap for New York breds Saturday for the second year in a row at Belmont Park.
Under sloppy and windy conditions, the 5-year-old gelding by Devil His Due
posted his first victory since winning last year's edition of the Empire Classic, the centerpiece of Belmont's New York Showcase Day for state-bred horses.
J.J. Castellano drove Spite the Devil to the lead after coming off the turn wide in the 1 1/8-mile event. Organizer, who put the pacesetters away in upper stretch and was spurting away in the stretch before tiring late under Ramon Dominguez, finished second. Carminooch, who loomed into contention for Mike Luzzi in upper stretch, could not sustain his momentum and settled for third. Pacesetter Yankee Mon finished fourth. The final time was 1:50 4/5.
"I worked the horse last week in the mud and he worked great," Castellano said. "He's a great horse to win this race twice."
Favored West Virginia, who carried high weight of 120 pounds – one more than the winner – didn't handle the sloppy going and finished fifth.
"I thought it looked like an impossible job," said winning trainer H. Allen Jerkens. "He's never been much of a mud horse. He worked a good mile (1:42) for Javier (jockey Castellano) the other day. I really didn't think he had that big a chance, though."
After winning the 2004 Empire Classic, Spite the Devil had one second to show from three previous starts in 2005 for Jerkens. The dark bay had been rested since an eight-place finish in the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont June 11, when 20 lengths behind Limehouse.
Yankee Mon, tracked closely by Galloping Grocer, set fractions of :22 3/5, :45 3/5 and 1:10 before Galloping Grocer gave way on the turn. Organizer, always close, edged up on the outside to take command, opening up in the stretch as Yankee Mon fell back. Spite the Devil was well back early and was wide coming off the turn before turning it on to win by one length.
Spite the Devil improved to 7-6-6 in 34 lifetime starts and earnings of $766,945.
Elisabeth R. Jerkens bred the winner, who paid $20.40, $11.80 and $7. Organizer returned $12.60 and $7.80 for a $296 exacta. Carminooch was $6 to show.
One race earlier, Jimmy Jerkens, Allen's son, won the $150,000 Mohawk Handicap
when Stewart Hoffman's Win With Beck found clear sailing down the middle of the track in the nine-furlong race for three-year-olds and up. Originally scheduled for the inner turf course, the race was run on the sloppy/sealed main track.
A 4-year-old son of Personal Flag, the homebred had lost his last two starts, both at Saratoga. He has now won seven of 20 career starts.
Win With Beck returned $5.30 for his six-length victory in 1:51.22.
In the day's other races:$125,000 Hudson Handicap:
Anstu Stable's Friendly Island, unraced since running seventh in the Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct last Nov. 28, outfought Introspect through fractions of :21.80; :44.39 and :56.76 and still had enough to come home a half-length winner in 1:10.35 in the six-furlong sprint for New York-breds.
It was the sixth win in eight starts for the 4-year-old son of Crafty Friend
, who had a chip removed from his knee after his seventh-place finish in the Fall Highweight. Bred by Kildare Stud & Adrian Regan, Friendly Island returned $8.60 to win. Papua was third.
"It's great when it works out," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. $150,000 Ticonderoga Handicap:
Gallagher Stud's Rahy's Appeal carried Jerry Bailey to an 8 ½-length victory in the nine-furlong event for fillies and mares that was originally carded for the inner turf course.
A homebred daughter of Rahy
, the Tom Bush-trained 3-year-old filly pressed the early pace of :24 and :47 and then took the lead on the turn en route to her fourth win in 11 career starts.
A $2 win ticket on her was worth $13.80. $125,000 Iroquois Handicap, presented by I Love NY:
Chester and Mary Broman Sr.'s Seeking the Ante rallied wide off the turn to win the seven-furlong sprint in 1:25 .40. Ridden by Mike Luzzi, the victor is a 3-year-old homebred son of Seeking the Gold
trained by John Kimmel.
The winner returned $6.30 for his fifth victory in 15 lifetime starts.
Luzzi had picked up the mount from his friend, jockey Richard Migliore, who suffered a broken leg in a paddock accident earlier this week. Migliore will be out 4-6 weeks and will miss the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships here on October 29th.
Luzzi dedicated his victory in the Iroquois to Migliore. $100,000 Maid of the Mist:
WinStar Farm's Cinderella's Dream had to work hard as the odds-on choice, but came up with a three-quarters of a length victory in this one-mile event for 2-year-old New York-bred fillies.
Up close early, she battled Zippy Missy through the lane to earn the victory in 1:39.33. Little Miss Zip was a nose back in third. A daughter of Prime Timber bred by Sez Who Thoroughbreds, she returned $3.40. Todd Pletcher saddled the winner$100,000 Sleepy Hollow: Purdedei Stable's Sharp Humor won his second straight stakes race with a half-length victory over favored Parkhimonbroadway in this one-mile race for 2-year-old New York-breds. Taking over after a quarter in :22.51, Sharp Humor then went a half in :45.58 and six furlongs in 1:10.91 while being pressed by Classic Pack. The winning time was 1:39.55Sharp Humor, a Dale Romans-trained son of Distorted Humor , was bred by Patricia S. Purdy and ridden by Edgar Prado. He has now won three of five starts. He returned $10.60 to win.