B. Wayne Hughes' Teton Forest gave trainer Bob Baffert back-to-back graded stakes victories when he went gate-to-wire for an unchallenged six-length win in the $150,000 Jerome Handicap (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at sloppy Belmont Park Saturday.
Baffert, who won the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) prior to the Jerome, will try for a perfect 3-for-3 stakes-races sweep when he sends 5-2 morning-line favorite Fusaichi Rock Star into the $300,000 Futurity (gr. II) on Sunday.
Teton Forest, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, upset 6-5 choice Ice Wynnd Fire, who came on for a non-threatening second-place finish with Edgar Prado aboard. Mahzouz, guided by Pablo Fragoso, rallied to narrowly miss second by three-quarters of a length. The final time on a sealed track for the one-mile Jerome was 1:35 3/5.
"I was just a passenger," said Bridgmohan. "Bob and his crew had this horse ready to go and all I had to do was just steer him."
A Kentucky-bred son of Forestry
–Tomorrow's Child (Al Nasr), Teton Forest won his first graded stakes race. He showed the way from the start while racing off the rail in hand and soon opened a clear two-length advantage through opening fractions of :23 3/5 and :46 3/5. He began to pull away from his lone pace rival Saratoga County on the turn after completing six furlongs in 1:10 3/5. When roused at the top of the stretch, Teton Forest responded with verve and led by seven lengths with a furlong to go. He finished under a drive while maintaining his big edge.
"He was comfortable and within himself down the backstretch," Bridgmohan said. "I knew he had plenty left to finish."
The Bobby Frankel-trained Ice Wynnd Fire chased the pace from the outside for Prado and responded mildly in the stretch to edge Mahzouz for second. Ice Wynnd Fire was coming off a third-place finish in the Kings Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 28.
"I wish the track was dry and fast; it could have been a different story," Prado said. "My horse ran good, but he wasn't really crazy about running over (the track). I thought I was going to finish fifth, but the class came out of him and he finished second."
Teton Forest, making his first start since losing the Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup (gr. II) by a head to Fire Slam June 5 at Belmont, improved to 3-2-2 in eight starts. His $90,000 winning share improved his earnings to $222,000.
He paid $6.60, $3.10 and $2.70. Ice Wynnd Fire returned $2.70 and $2.40. Mahzouz was $4.60 to show.
Teton Forest and Senor Swinger earned a total of $214,680 for Baffert's owners on Saturday.
Saratoga County finished fourth, followed by West Virginia, Coded Warning and Sir Oscar.