Grade I winner Kicken Kris, winless since October, got a perfect stalking trip from jockey Edgar Prado to win the Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Belmont Park turf Saturday.
The 4-year-old son of Kris S. pulled clear of pacesetting L'Oiseau d' Argent in the stretch and held off a late charge from 9-1 Better Talk Now, pulling away for a 1 1/2-length victory in a time of 2:12 for the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green on a firm inner turf course.
Prado kept the 6-5 favorite in the field of 10 on the outside of trouble while rating in fourth position as L'Oiseau d' Argent set a solid pace (:23, :47 2/5, 1:10 4/5, 1:35 4/5), with prompting from Gigli and Thompson Rouge on her outside. As things bunched up on the far turn, Kicken Kris was guided four wide on the outside of the leaders. Kicken Kris assumed control in upper stretch and finished under a drive after Better Talk Now and Jose Santos challenged on the outside.
"He gave me a nice, sweeping move outside and just drew off," Prado said. "He is a little better than this bunch and he proved it today. I noticed in the post parade that he wasn't fully concentrating. Even in the gate, he wasn't focusing. That's why I let him go a little early."
Trainer Michael Matz did not commit to a future start for Kicken Kris, although a return to grade I company in Saratoga's $500,000, 1 ½-mile Sword Dancer Invitational on Aug. 14 would have to be a consideration.
Gigli was 2 1/4 lengths back in third place, a neck in front of B.A. Way, who was bottled up in the stretch run.
Owned by Brushwood Stable, Kicken Kris snapped a four-race losing streak, all in grade I races. His last victory came in Belmont's Lawrence Realization (gr. IIIT). He won last year's 1 1/4-mile Secretariat (gr. IT) at Arlington Park by 3 1/2 lengths.
"Edgar (Prado) told us some things that might have been the situation of the last two races," Matz said. "The first race (Turf Classic), he had a big excuse with the storm that happened at Churchill Downs. I don't know that happened on Belmont Day (Manhattan Handicap). He's trained well. We're just going to try a few different things for next time. He is a class horse."
Kicken Kris, winless in five starts on the dirt to begin his career, has a 5-3-2 record since Matz switched him to the turf 12 starts ago. The Kentucky-bred, a $400,000 Keeneland September 2001 sale, has banked $719,100 in his career.
The winner paid $4.70, $3 and $3. Better Talk Now returned $5.60 and $5.60 and completed a $28.40 exacta. Gigli, ridden by Jorge Chavez for trainer Bobby Frankel was $5.90 to show.
L'Oiseau d' Argent ws fifth, followed by A to the Z, In Hand, Vanity Affair, Host and Thompson Rouge.