Melnyk Racing Stables' Flower Alley showed his class in the stretch, powering his way through a cloudburst to a 3 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Salvator Mile Stakes (gr. III) at sloppy Monmouth Park.Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Flower Alley was making his first start of the year but looked sharp as he splashed through the slop to stop the timer in 1:35 4/5 for the mile. Sent off the 1-2 favorite in the field of five, Flower Alley paid $3, $2.40, and $2.10 across the board.
Park Avenue Ball, off at 5-1 with Chris DeCarlo aboard, finished second a head in front of the late-closing Network. Park Avenue Ball paid $3.60 to place and $2.10 to win, and completed the $10.60 exacta. Network, Joe Bravo aboard, paid $2.10 to show.
Flower Alley made his first appearance since Oct. 29 when he finished second to Horse of the Year Saint Liam in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I). Last summer, he won the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.
"It was exactly what we were looking for, with the exception of the track condition," Pletcher said. "We knew he handled an off track before when he won at Turfway early in his career, so I figured he'd handle the track.
"Johnny had the benefit of riding the race before and thought the outer part of the track was the place to be, and we were fortunate to break from the five hole today. He kept in the clear the whole way and finished really strong."
Pletcher said the Whitney (gr. I) at Saratoga on Aug. 5 would be next for Flower Alley. After that, the Woodward (gr. I) at Saratoga on Sept. 2 and the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 are on the schedule.
Velazquez said he wanted to stay toward the outside but still close to the lead."The track was open when it started raining, and I didn't want to have too much ground to make up," he said.
The winner sat off a quick early pace set by Gold and Roses, who clipped fractions of :23, :46 2/5 and 1:10 4/5 while stalked by Cherokee's Boy, winner of last year's Salvator Mile. Turning into the stretch, Flower Alley made his move on the outside. Velazquez had to rouse him in mid-stretch as they battled Gold and Roses, but Flower Alley opened a daylight lead the final sixteenth.
Flower Alley earned a prize of $60,000 and boosted his career bankroll to $2,497,660.Gold and Roses finished fourth while Cherokee's Boy struggled home last, more than 22 lengths behind the winner.(Chart, Equibase)