Favored Rey de Café, who always likes to make it interesting, did so again. He was between horses in a tight finish and just got his nose in front to take the $114,700 Hill Prince Stakes (gr. IIIT) Friday at Belmont Park.
Two starts ago, Rey de Café finished third, beaten a neck, in the Transylvania (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland. He then ran on the undercard on Kentucky Oaks day at Churchill Downs, winning the American Turf (gr. IIIT) by a nose.
In the Hill Prince, Tinseltown made the lead and was joined by longshot Better Than Bonds. Javier Castellano was content to settle Rey de Café in fifth on the rail. Though he saved ground, it meant he had to find running room when the field turned for home.
Castellano moved the 3–year-old Kingmambo
colt out, and he hit his best stride with a furlong to run in the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes. Classic Campaign and Cornelio Velazquez, who led by three lengths in the stretch, were on the rail, and Prince Rahy and Eibar Coa arrived late on the outside.
Right on the wire, Prince Rahy came in bumping Rey de Café, who was knocked into Classic Campaign. The stewards posted the inquiry sign but let the order of finish stand, with Rey de Cafe just outgaming Prince Rahy and Classic Campaign.
Castellano said he wasn't sure what happened near the wire.
"When you're riding, you don't realize when you are right at the wire," Castellano said. "I wasn't sure if I had it. Someone hit me behind. My horse really took a bad step. I looked at Coa (jockey Eibar Coa on Prince Rahy) and he said `I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' It wasn't his fault. "
Rey de Café carried high weight of 123 pounds, seven more than his main rivals.
Trained by Rusty Arnold, Rey de Café is a homebred of G. Watts Humphrey Jr., who bred him in Kentucky. The colt is out of the Private Account mare Commodities. Her made his Belmont Park turf debut Friday and has now won four races overall in 10 career starts with earnings of $268,138.
"I think (Castellano) claimed `foul,' when he pulled up because he didn't know he had won," said Arnold. "He's small and was carrying more weight the others. I am really proud of him because he is a fighter. I think if you add up all of his turf races he has probably been beaten a length altogether.
"We're going to ask him for a little bit more. We're going to try the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) at a mile and a quarter. You have to give it a chance. It is a $750,000 race."
The Virginia Derby is at Colonial Downs on July 16.
There were two stakes on the day at Belmont and Castellano won them both by the narrowest of margins. He took the Flash Stakes (gr. III) aboard Beacon Shine.
Castellano's luck ran out in the 10th and last race of the day, however when he was unseated at the gate by Oh Lucy, forcing a late scratch. Castellano was taken away in an ambulance but said later that he had the wind knocked out of him when Oh Lucy reared entering the starting gate and struck him in the torso with her head.
Rey de Café paid $5.90, $3.80, and $2.70, while Prince Rahy, the second longest shot in the nine-horse field at odds of 18-1, returned $12 and $6.90. Classic Campaign was worth $3.20.
Then came, in order, Crown Point, Tinseltown, Tadreeb, Better Than Bonds, Chief Commander and Becrux.