Unbeaten Proud Accolade, ridden confidently in his stakes debut by John Velazquez, dealt heavy favorite Afleet Alex his first loss with a half-length victory in the $500,000 Champagne (gr. I) for 2-year-olds at Belmont Park Saturday.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for owner Padua Stables, Proud Accolade, a son of Yes It's True
, won the third straight race of his young career while earning $300,000.
"It worked out beautifully," Velazquez said. "He let me do whatever I wanted with him out there. He relaxed good. I had the favorite in there, and I didn't want to move until I had to. Once he was going around the turn, he was going perfectly. He was stretching out today, and I didn't want to move too soon and get him tired. He did well."
Pletcher is looking forward to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
"Based on the way he ran the first two times, and the way he trained up to this, I was fairly optimistic about the distance," said Pletcher, who won the Meadowlands Cup on Friday night with Balto Star. "The race unfolded pretty much the way we thought it would. He was stalking the pace in a good position. When Johnny called on him, he responded well.
"The one thing that has been so impressive about him from day one is that he has always had a terrific mind. A lot of horses you get in two-year-old-in-training sales that are fast want to be fast all the time. He's one of those colts that is very cooperative and gives it to you when you ask for it. Assuming he comes out well, we'll go to the Breeders' Cup."
Afleet Alex, expected to be the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), was late getting into action after switching to the outside of rivals for Jeremy Rose and was gaining at the end while edging Sun King and Javier Castellano for second by 1 1/4 length. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile Champagne was 1:42 1/5.
"I think he wins if he gets a clean trip," said Afleet Alex's trainer, Tim Ritchey. "That's what happens in racing. He ran his race. He did a good job. He was catching that horse at the end, so distance wasn't a problem. We found that out for absolute certainty and we go forward from here. They all get beat. Secretariat got beat. I think it was more the traffic that beat him.
"As for the Breeders' Cup, we'll see how he comes out of the race. Just depends on that."
Velazquez won his fourth race on the Belmont Park card Saturday.
Proud Accolade, breaking from the outside in the field of eight, settled in on the outside behind pacesetter Silver Train and Sun King through fractions of :23 3/5 and :47 1/5. On the turn, Castellano was asking Sun King for more as he took the lead from Silver Train. Sun King was under a ride as Proud Accolade, never asked, coasted up on the outside and took control. Afleet Alex rallied and was making up ground gradually down the lane, but didn't have enough room to overtake the winner.
Proud Accolade was coming off a 5 1/2-length win in a first-level allowance race Sept. 1 at Saratoga. He broke his maiden at the Spa in his debut race by 7 1/2 lengths July 31. Both of those races were at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Bred in Florida by Marion Montanari, Proud Accolade is from the dam Proud Ciel (by Septieme Ciel). He was purchased for $450,000 at Ocala in March.
He paid $6.80, $3.10 and $2.40 as the second choice in the eight-horse field. Afleet Alex, who won the Hopeful (gr. I) at Saratoga in his last start, was sent off as the 6-5 favorite, returning $2.80 and $2.30. Sun King's show was $2.60. The exacta was worth $13.40.
Silver Train, Park Avenue Ball, One Fein Dad, Wllstreet Scandal and All Trumps trailed.