Joseph Allen's homebred Ecclesiastic ended a 10-race losing streak when he swept past favored Old Forester in deep stretch to win the $111,600 Jaipur Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a head on the Belmont Park turf.
The turn back in distance to seven furlongs seemed to do the trick for the 4-year-old son of Pulpit
, who won his first graded stakes race at odds of 8-1 in an evenly matched field of seven. Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez for trainer H. Allen Jerkens, Ecclesiastic completed the seven-eighths in an excellent time of 1:20 3/5.
Forester, who shouldered top weight of 124 pounds, settled for second with Edgar Prado aboard after taking command from second choice Gulch Approval a furlong from home. Gulch Approval and Javier Castellano finished third, two lengths behind. It was a half-length back to Trade Fair.
Ecclesiastic, who carried 118 pounds Saturday, won for the first time in nine starts on the turf. The bay colt was coming off a solid third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Fort Marcy Handicap (gr. IIIT) on a "good" Aqueduct turf course April 23, where he was 1 3/4 lengths behind Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. I) winner Better Talk Now.
Jerkens took over training duties on Ecclesiastic from Kiaran McLaughlin in April prior to the Fort Marcy.
"He was in good shape when we got him," said Jerkens. "We just kind of went along with him. He didn't like Florida that much. He's a lot better up here. I had a feeling that he was sharp right now, and I thought he could get up at seven (furlongs). He's got some speed, he blew out real sharp the other day, and I felt pretty good when he did that.
"Most of the races for him will be longer," he added. "I don't have anything special planned for him. We'll just be happy with this for a while."
Gulch Approval took them to the stretch through fractions of :23 2/5 and :46 1/5 before he was tackled by Old Forester, who made a big move from the rear of the pack to eventually get to the lead. Ecclesiastic broke well before falling back along the inside for Velasquez. He angled out for a three-wide move in the stretch, prevailing in the long drive over Old Forester, who dug in while racing on the inside when headed close to the wire.
The favorite was making his first start since winning the Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park March 13. Old Forester was perfect in two previous starts on the Belmont Park grass, including a seven-furlong allowance tally by 7 1/4 lengths there last fall.
Ecclesiastic improved his career line to 3-4-4 in 18 starts, with earnings of $211,974.
Allen bred him in Kentucky from the Rubiano mare Starry Dreamer.
The winner paid $19.60, $7.60, and $3.80 as the fifth choice. Old Forester, favored at 2-1, returned $3.60 and $2.30 while completing a $67.50 exacta. Gulch Approval was $2.60 to show.
Following Trade Fair came Seeking the Glory, Thunder Touch, and Blakelock. No Parole, Steel Light, and Aggadan, who was entered for the main track only, were scratched.