Juddmonte Farms’ First Defence punched his ticket for the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) Saturday, leading every step to win the $150,000 Long Branch Breeders’ Cup for 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths at Monmouth Park.
The 3-year-old son of Unbridled's Song out of the Seattle Slew mare Honest Lady, trained by Bobby Frankel and ridden by his regular pilot, Javier Castellano, was sent off the 3-10 favorite in the field of six, and proved far superior, completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42 1/5.
First Defence paid $2.60, $2.10, and $2.10 and topped a $14.80 exacta with Get Serious, a 7-1 chance who rallied up to take the place, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Saratoga Lullaby, the 7-2 second choice.
Drama was drained early as Castellano put First Defence in front from the gate and then opened a daylight lead over Saratoga Lullaby through fractions of :23 3/5 for the quarter, :46 2/5 for the half and 1:10 for six furlongs.
Get Serious made a good move along the rail to take over second but never was a real threat to the winner, who responded to moderate urging at the eighth pole.
The winner of the Long Branch is traditionally extended an invitation to run in the $1 million Haskell Invitational, which will be renewed this year on Aug. 5.
“He was feeling real good today,” Castellano said. “I thought (Get Serious) would be in front coming out of those sprint races. But as soon as they opened the gates, boom, I was in front. After that, I was just letting him go along and make sure he was comfortable.”
Crusader Rabbit, Brush On By, and Keeneland Kid trailed.
It was the third victory in five lifetime starts for First Defence, and the winner’s share of $90,000 boosted his lifetime earnings to $158,195.