Darley Stable's Lunar Sovereign, guided by Richard Migliore, unleashed an explosive move while wide on the final turn and rolled on to a 2 3/4-length win in the $500,000 Man o'War (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Saturday.
The Kentucky-bred 4-year-old son of Cobra King registered a 10-1 surprise – his first graded stakes victory – while teaming with 17-1 Slew Valley for a $221.50 exacta. They were the two longest shots in the eight-horse field. Favored Denon, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was third at 7-5. The final time for the 1 3/8-mile test on a firm Belmont turf course was a slow 2:17 4/5.
"I was clocking Denon, and when Jerry (Bailey) opened his hand at the three-eighths pole, it seemed he didn't have any response from his horse," Migliore said. "That's when I made my move. I pulled him out and he just inhaled them. This was the first trip where everything went exactly the way I wanted it to go."
Bailey agreed with Migliore's assessment.
"I knew at the three-eighths pole, that I didn't have a lot of horse," he said. "I didn't have enough to go with the winner. I went anyway, and it probably cost me second place."
Migliore won his second Man O'War. He also won in 1985 with Win.
Eighth in the Sword Dancer (gr. IT) at Saratoga Aug. 9 in his last start, Lunar Sovereign, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, was all but ignored in the Man O'War. He remains perfect in four starts on the Belmont turf. McLauglin won his first grade I race in the United States.
He settled in mid-pack while unhurried into the final turn as Balto Star set slow splits of :25 4/5. :51 4/5, 1:17 1/5 and 1:42. Lunar Sovereign began gobbling up the ground while coming five-wide on the turn and quickly collared the leaders, bursting away to a three-length lead and driving for the wire under steady left-handed encouragement from Migliore.
"He ran that way in the United Nations (a close third July 5) and the next race (Sword Dancer) was a throw-out," McLauglin maintained. "He laid close and all the speed horses stopped that day. It was a little too bad to be true. I told (Migliore) to ride him with confidence because he had been training so well."
Slew Valley, ridden by Javier Castellano, trailed Balto Star into the stretch while edging closer to the lead, angling out in the stretch to narrowly defeat Denon for second. The favorite was also close up most of the way, stalking on the outside while fourth. He made a mild bid at the leader at the top of the stretch but couldn't sustain it.
"(Lunar Sovereign) got a good jump on him, but he came running really hard," said Gary Sciacca, trainer of Slew Valley. "He ran a really good race. I'm proud of him."
Entry mates Balto Star and Deeliteful Irving were fourth and fifth, respectively, followed by Macaw, Whitmore's Conn and Carpanetto. Whitmore's Conn, who won the Sword Dancer, was seeking his third straight graded stakes victory.
Lunar Sovereign now has a 5-4-1 record in 14 starts while increasing his career earnings to $508,253 with the $330,000 winning purse Saturday.
Cobra Farm Inc. bred Lunar Sovereign, who is out of the Apalachee mare January Moon. He was a $140,000 buy from the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky auction in July 2000.
He paid $22, $12.80 and $5.50. Slew Valley returned $17.60 and $6.70. Denon's show was $2.80.