There was some bumping in the lane as the two rivals battled to the wire. But a stewards' inquiry into the home stretch resulted in no change in the order of finish. The 3-year-old Xchanger, facing elders for the first time, charged home with interest to finish a close third, a nose behind Magna Graduate. Final time for the 1 1/8-mile Meadowlands Cup was 1:48 1/5.
Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Diamond Stripes is a candidate for this year's Breeders' Cup Classic-Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27. The 4-year-old Notebook gelding had posted three successive third-place finishes against grade I company, the last two coming against the victorious Lawyer Ron in the Whitney Handicap and Woodward at Saratoga this summer. Before that, the gray had been beaten a half-length by Flashy Bull in Churchill Downs' Stephen Foster Handicap in June.
Dutrow indicated that he is leaning towards the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 26 at Monmouth Park rather than the Classic the following day.
"I'm not sure that he is 1 1/4-mile horse, but some of the tougher horses may not like Monmouth as much and we trained there all summer," he said. "I might go for the $1 million race the day before. I'm not dreaming of the Classic; however, you never know."
Mr. Umphrey, a stablemate of Diamond Stripes, jumped to a commanding lead and set fractions of :23 1/5, :46 1/5 and 1:10 while holding onto the lead into the stretch. Diamond Stripes, ridden for the first time by Cornelio Velasquez, picked up the Todd Pletcher-conditioned Magna Graduate, with John Velazquez aboard, on the final turn. The pair raced in close tandem with Magna Graduate on the outside, and they eventually disposed of the pacesetter. Inside the eighth pole, Xchanger, Luis Garcia in the irons, made his presence felt while rallying in the middle of the track, but arrived just a little late.
"He was game and fought hard all the way to the wire," Velasquez said. "Once he made the lead, he kind of waited on other horses, but he was able to dig in all the way to the end."
Diamond Stripes was sixth and racing along the rail in the early stages.
"He was boxed in a little there," Dutrow noted. "As soon as a hole opened up, Cornelio took it. He was biding his time and trying to look for a hole. When he saw one open up, he went for it. When he made that move, I knew that we were in good shape and that it was just a question of whether our horse showed up."
Magna Graduate carried top weight of 123 pounds, four more than the winner.
Owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, Diamond Stripes earned his first graded stakes victory since the 2006 Pegasus (gr. III) over the Meadowlands strip one year ago. Diamond Stripes won the first four races of his career followed by his run of thirds. He earned $300,000 for the fifth win in his eight-race career and has now banked $742,461.
Samuel Rogers Jr. bred the winner, who is out of the On to Glory mare Romantic Summer, in Florida.
Diamond Stripes paid $4.20, $2.60 and $2.20. The multiple graded stakes winner Magna Graduate, well beaten in the Whitney and Woodward in his last two starts, rebounded nicely to return $3.40 and $2.40. Xchanger, coming off a second-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), was $2.40 to show.
Awfully Smart, Mr. Umphrey, Utopia and Praying for Cash completed the order.
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