Chocolate Ride, a 6-year-old son of Candy Ride
ridden by Florent Geroux, covered the 1 1/8-mile contest in 1:49.31 on firm turf as the favorite. He took last year's edition of the race in similar style, winning by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:48.84.
The winner led Departing
by about three-quarters of length down the backstretch and around the turn before opening up by about three lengths in early stretch. Roman Approval, who waited in seventh through six furlongs, rallied strongly in the final furlong, sprinting past Departing, while closing furiously on the leader but had to settle for a close second. Departing held for third.
"You never know how these races are going to unfold, but we had the best horse," said Geroux, who won four races on the card, including the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) with Gun Runner
and the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes with Cinco Charlie
. "He can run on the lead or take off it. He's a very tough horse, especially on this turf course. He's very hard to catch. Brad and his team have done a great job with him keeping him healthy and happy."
Trained by Brad Cox for Wentworth Brochu, 123-pound highweight Chocolate Ride paid $4.60, $2.60, and $2.40 as the 6-5 favorite in the nine-horse field. Roman Approval (118) returned $3.40 and $2.80, and Departing (121) paid $2.80.
Cox said Chocolate Ride will likely be aimed for a repeat in the March 26 Mervin H. Muniz Handicap (gr. IIT), which he won last year in a course record time of 1:48.18.
Bred in Kentucky by Brian Kahn from the Old Trieste mare Heatherdoesntbluff, Chocolate Ride improved to 7-2-2 from 16 career starts.