Equirace Stable's Freefourinternet circled a wall of horses in the stretch and held off an unlucky Proud Man in the closing strides by a nose to post a 20-1 surprise in the $350,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Belmont Park turf Saturday.
Ridden by Jose Espinoza and carrying 113 pounds for trainer Joan Scott, Freefourinternet, last with a quarter-mile to run after being bumped at the break, completed the one-mile Kelso in 1:34 3/5 on a course listed as firm. Rouvres, the 3-1 second in the field of 10, settled for third – a length behind – after being outrun in the stretch.
North East Bound, tracked by Mercenary and Pay the Preacher, was on the lead after a :24 opening quarter mile and a half in :47 1/5. After six furlongs in 1:10 3/5, the field bunched up on the turn with perhaps a half-dozen contenders looking for running room as the frontrunners gave way.
Freefourinternet, who took a wide path to find room, got the jump on Proud Man, who had to wait for an opening under Jerry Bailey before squeezing between horses toward the inside. Once clear of traffic in deep stretch, Proud Man gradually cut into Freefourinternet's lead, but ran out of room, getting past just beyond the wire.
"He broke a little slow," Espinoza said. "We got bumped, so I decided just to wait in the back. I tried to save as much ground as possible, and I got him out at the top of the stretch. He took off and we just held on."
Scott won her first stakes race.
"This horse has been doing super," she said. "My main concern was the mile. I think a little more distance suits him better. He ran a huge race here, and Jose (Espinoza) did a great job with him. The horse wants to fall out of the race and loaf around, and at a mile, you can't do that. Jose did a great job of keeping him up in the race. This horse loves to swing wide and make a big run. I would say the owners are probably decided about the Breeders' Cup (Mile), but we will see what they want do."
Decarchy, the 2-1 favorite while carrying high weight of 118, was fourth while enjoying a ground-saving trip under Jose Santos. Decarchy has lost nine consecutive races.
"We were running pretty well," said Santos. "We were spread out, and then we got to the stretch, and everybody was running pretty even. All of a sudden, everybody was on the inside. My run got smaller and smaller and I couldn't get through."
A well-traveled horse, Freefourinternet had lost nine consecutive races since an optional claiming win on a yielding course at Churchill Downs Nov. 10. His fifth victory (worth $210,000) in 23 career starts pushed his career earnings to $499,782. He was making his first start at Belmont.
The 5-year-old bay son of Tabasco Cat, bred by Edward P. Evans in Kentucky, was a $200,000 Fasig-Tipton purchase in February 2000.
He paid $43.20, $16.40 and $8.30. Proud Man returned $6.70 and $4.40. The French-bred Rouvres, who was ridden by Corey Nakatani, showed for $3.40. The $2 exacta was worth $245.50.