Belong To Sea ran her undefeated record to three with a thrilling victory in the $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III), contested under cloudy Thursday at Pimlico.
Confidently ridden by Javier Castellano, the bay daughter of Belong To Me tracked pacesetter Pompamento to the top of the lane, put that one away and then held off a furious rally by Chimichurri to win by head in 1:11.1 for the six furlongs over a fast main track. Post time favorite Forever Partners finished third.
Belong To Sea, who was making her first graded stakes appearance, is trained by Lisa Lewis, who will send out Kissin Saint as a starter in Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
"We always thought that she was a nice filly but when she won her first two races in the slop some people thought that she was just an off track filly," Lewis said. "We knew she would run well even on a fast track. We thought the race set up well for her and we wanted to be right where we were, sitting right off the pace. With the outside post I told Javier to track them unless she just pulled him to the lead. The owners are a great group of guys. They told me that I'd better win this race so that they could meet Miss Preakness."
Castellano admitted he was concerned about the late charge from Chimichurri.
"I knew the other filly was coming at us, but maybe my filly was waiting a little bit because she galloped out very well."
Ramon Dominguez, who rode Chimichurri, said, "We just ran out of ground. One more jump and we would have gotten up for the win. She was flying. We were back a little farther than I expected, but the horse in front was going fast and the pace was honest."
Leading rider Ryan Fogelsonger returned from the race with a swollen right hand and a slight abrasion. The injury occurred when his mount Pompamento became fractious in the gate prior to the start.
"I didn't even think about it (the injury) until we got going," Fogelsonger said. "Then I realized I must have banged it in the gate. She's usually pretty calm in the gate, but she got worked up today. It goes through your mind, but you try to forget about it and just run your race. She broke great and was going fairly easily, but maybe the others had too much class today."
Fogelsonger took off his mount in the final race and the track physician recommended precautionary x-rays of his right hand. Fogelsonger has the mount aboard Cherokee's Boy in Saturday's Preakness.
Belong To Sea pushed her career earnings to more than $110,000 for owners Jeffery Amling, Steven C. Duncker, Alan Quartucci and Hudson River Farms.
The winner paid $11.40, $5 and $2.10. Chimichurri returned $4.40 and $2.10. Forever Partners, the 4-5 favorite who was in contention all the way, showed for $2.10. The $2 exacta was worth $47.60.