by Richard Rosenblatt
Toccet ran like a rocket in the stretch and pulled off a surprise victory in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Finding room along the rail, Toccet shot past Icecoldbeeratreds in the final sixteenth of a mile for a 1 1/2-length win in the grade I race for 2-year-olds.
"I was told to wait, wait, wait," said winning rider Jorge Chavez. "Things worked out when Lukas' horse (Desert Warrior) started to tire and backed up. I was able to go inside, but (Icecoldbeeratreds) was clear. I saw him starting to slow down and I knew I had horse. My horse was still a little green. He's not really focused yet."
Dismissed at odds of 9-1 by the Belmont crowd of 9,551 and simulcast bettors elsewhere, Toccet won his third straight race and positioned himself for a shot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.
Icecoldbeeratreds, trained by Bob Baffert, made a strong showing but tired in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race. Baffert, who was at Santa Anita on Saturday, said he's uncertain whether Icecoldbeeratreds will move on to the BC Juvenile.
"He ran hard, then got caught at the end," Baffert said, adding he and owner Mike Pegram will discuss what's next for the colt.
But this was a day for Toccet, trained by John Scanlan and owned and bred by Daniel Borislow. A son of 1998 BC Classic winner Awesome Again, Toccet returned $20.20, $9.60 and $6.30. Icecoldbeeratreds, with David Flores aboard, paid $4.80 and $4.30. Erinsouthernman was third and paid $5.90. The winning time was 1:44.45.
Pretty Wild, the 6-5 favorite, was fourth, followed by Cape Good Hope, Brancusi, Outer Reef, Desert Warrior, and Risky Cat.
"I don't think the added distance had anything to do with it," said Pretty Wild's trainer Stan Hough. "He's been pretty aggressive in the first part of his races, but there was no part of the race where it actually looked like he was going to run his race. I thought he came into it good, but maybe he's run too much so far. It just wasn't his day. I'll give him a little time."
The Champagne lost some of its luster on Thursday when expected favorite Zavata bruised a foot and was not entered. (Chart, Equibase