Al Khali, stuck on the inside and desperately trying to find room, finally got loose in mid-stretch and ran down odds-on favorite Winchester in the final yards to win the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) Sept. 11 at Belmont Park.
It was the first stakes win of the season for the 4-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, who covered 1 3/8 miles on the firm turf in 2:15.23 under Alan Garcia. Bill Mott trains the winner for Brous Stable and Wachtel Stale.
Al Khali saved ground most of the way while racing in fifth in a scratched-filled field of seven, as Strike a Deal set the pace and carried his lead into the stretch. With Ramon Dominguez aboard, Strike a Deal set reasonable fractions of :23.16, :49.31, 1:14.84, and 1:39.85. Jeune-Turc pressed the pace, while Followmyfootsteps and Simmard were close to the pace.
Al Khali was only a length back of the leaders in a tightly-bunched group when they entered the final furlong, but was boxed in along the hedge. When a tiring Followmyfootsteps began to lose ground and Winchester finally took off for the lead in mid-stretch, Garcia found an opening, swung Al Khali to the outside, and with a burst of speed he rolled by his rivals. Al Khali hit the wire under wraps to win by a measured neck.
Winchester and Cornelio Velasquez were head in front of third-place Simmard.
“My horse was the best today," said Garcia, who picked up the ride only after his initial mount Grand Couturier scratched. "(Mott) said to me, ‘Wherever you’re comfortable, whatever you feel, wherever you want to be, it’s your decision.’ He was sitting perfectly. He was going slow, then he went faster to get me out into a better spot and after that, my horse was the best. (Once I got out), I knew I had a lot of time. Mr. Mott did an excellent job with this one.”
Al Khali won for the second time in five starts this season. He scored in an optional claimer at Belmont in July before finishing third in the grade I Sword Dancer Invitational last month. As a 3-year-old, Al Khali won the Saranac (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga for his first graded victory.
The bay ridgling, who was previously trained by Todd Pletcher, improved to 6-2-2 from 17 starts with earnings of $369,205. He was bred in Kentucky by Emory Hamilton and is out of the Capote mare Maya.
The winner paid $7.30, $3.10, and $2.60. The exacta (3-5) returned $13.40 and the trifecta (3-5-1) was $59.
Strike a Deal was fourth, followed by Jeune-Turc, Dry Martini, and Followmyfootsteps. In addition to Grand Couturier, who won the race a year ago, Gabriel's Hill, Interpatation, and Southwestalso were scratched