Tale of Ekati earned his first victory since taking the Wood Memorial (gr. I) on the Triple Crown trail this spring when he captured the $159,500 Jerome Handicap (gr. II) on a sloppy track at Belmont Park Oct. 5.
Ridden patiently by Cornelio Velasquez, Tale of Ekati parked off the pacesetters Z Humor and Da' Tara before gradually gaining the lead from Z Humor mid-stretch and opening a clear advantage with a furlong to run. The Tale of the Cat colt maintained a safe margin to the wire, winning by one length over You and I Forever, who finished up well along the rail for jockey Javier Castellano. The winning time for the one-mile trip on a sealed track was 1:36.17.
Harlem Rocker and Eibar Coa took an outside path before flattening out in the lane to finish third, 3 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up. Visionaire, the 3-2 choice, trailed the field throughout while racing wide.
Winner of the Futurity (g. II) at Belmont at 2, Charles Fipke's homebred Tale of Ekati came back this spring to take the Wood by a half-length at Aqueduct in April for trainer Barclay Tagg.
In four starts after that, Tale of Ekati raced against the finest horses of his generation with mixed results. The bay colt outran his 37-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) when he finished fourth. But he regressed in his next three starts with a sixth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), a fourth in Saratoga's Jim Dandy (gr. II) and a seventh in the Travers (gr. I).
In two prior tries on off going, Tale of Ekati had failed to finish in the money.
“I was pleased he handled the mud so well,” Tagg said. “I was disappointed that the track was so muddy so late in the day, but fortunately, he handled it well. I knew he was dead-right for the race, and I thought it was a good spot for him, although I knew it was very, very tough.
"He had the perfect post position for a mile out of the chute. It was just ideal.”
Z Humor was gunned to the lead at the rail by Joe Bravo soon after Da' Tara won the break and carved even fractions of :23.12, :46.24 and 1:10.50. Da' Tara, the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) upset winner, was finished after a half-mile.
Tale of Ekati, who is out of the Sunday Silence mare Silence Beauty, improved his record to 4-1-0 in 11 starts with earnings of $992,758. The Jerome victory was worth $95,700. Tale of Ekati was trying the one-mile distance for the first time.
Sent off as the fourth choice in the seven-horse field, the winner paid $14.40, $7.10 and $4.30. You and I Forever, bouncing back from an eighth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) for trainer Bill Mott, returned $9 and $4.30, rounding out a $2 exacta worth $96. The Todd Pletcher trainee Harlem Rocker was $4 to show in his initial try over an off-track.
Z Humor, Cool Coal Man, Da' Tara and Visionaire trailed.
“(Jockey Alan Garcia) said he didn’t respond,” said Visionaire’s trainer, Michael Matz. “I don’t know if something wasn’t to his liking. He has run well in the slop before. I don’t know.”