New millionaire Limehouse hadn't won a race in nearly 14 months, but he has now won two in a row after taking the $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Saturday.
Jockey John Velazquez knew speed had been holding all day at Belmont, and he took Limehouse toward the front from the outside post in the nine-horse field. He sat right behind leader Rogue Agent, who opened up a three-length lead through a quarter in :23.67 and a half in :46.28.
As the field hit six furlongs in 1:10.01, Limehouse took over as favored Gygistar, ridden by Javier Castellano, began to make his run on the outside. They went a mile in 1:34.77. Limehouse had plenty left in the tank, running the 1 1/8-mile in 1:46.69 to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
"Every time they came to him, he gave them a little more," said Velazquez, who was able to save some ground with Limehouse while in hand behind the pacesetter before angling out going into the turn.
By Grand Slam
out of the Dixieland Band
mare Dixieland Blues, the 4-year-old Limehouse was bred in Florida by Cheryl Curtin. The chestnut is owned by Dogwood Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher.
Pletcher said Limehouse had been training well at Belmont recently.
"I didn't think there was a lot of speed in here, and I thought being close would be good," Pletcher said. "I thought the track had been playing to that. I wasn't concerned when Johnny (Velazquez) moved a little early. I could see the way that Johnny was riding that he thought he had a lot of horse."
Limehouse has always run in top competition and finished fourth in last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I). But his win in the Alysheba Stakes May 6 at Churchill Downs was his first win since the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) in March 2004 and snapped a seven-race losing streak.
The victory, his seventh in 17 lifetime starts, increased his earnings to $1,062,433.
The third choice in a field of nine, Limehouse paid $7.80, $3.90, and $3.50 while Gygistar, the 2-1 favorite, returned $3.70 and $3.20. Cuba, ridden by Norberto Arroyo, finished third, two lengths behind the runner-up. But after a claim of foul, Cuba was disqualified for interfering with Funny Cide, who had regular rider Jose Santos aboard.
"I'm not happy about the finish," said Barclay Tagg, trainer of the 2003 Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner. "(Funny Cide) came into the race absolutely perfect and strong. He was running well, and then I saw Jose pull back. He damn near fell down."
Added Santos, "We were in good position and he was running his race. When Norberto came in on me going around the far turn, I had to pull back. That did us in."
Royal Assault, Rafael Bejarano aboard, was elevated to third, and Funny Cide was put up to fourth. Royal Assault paid $6.50.
Then came Evening Attire, Rogue Agent, Spite the Devil and Chowder's First.