Justin Phillip took advantage of the speed favoring Belmont Park strip, opening up early and cruising to an impressive victory in the $250,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard (VIDEO) June 11.
Running over a track listed as muddy, the son of First Samurai broke in a line along with Arch Traveler, Derivative, and Travelin Man, as the riders realized speed has been holding well on a rainy afternoon at Belmont. Arch Traveler grabbed a quick lead out of the gate, but Justin Phillip and Ramon Dominguez quickly took the advantage in the field of five 3-year-olds, shortened by the scratches of Bold Warrior and Little Drama.
It was pretty much over from there, at the winner cruised through fractions of :22.23, :44.45, and 1:09.56 before stopping the timer in 1:23.56 for the seven furlongs. J J's Lucky Train finished 3 ¼ lengths back in second, a nose better than Arch Traveler. Travelin Man finished fourth followed by Derivative.
“He has run very well on an off track before and everything fell into place today," Asmussen said. "We thought he was going to lay third and Ramon said he felt great underneath him and he was just dragging him along."
Asmussen said the seven-furlong King's Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 27, would be a strong consideration for Justin Phillip's next start.
"He was pretty strong and ran a big race," said Dominguez, who had ridden the dark bay/brown colt to third-place finishes in the Bay Shore (gr. III) and Jerome (gr. II) stakes this spring. "I was very surprised to see the 44 (second half-mile) when I came back. He seemed to keep an even pace.”
The winner paid $10.80, $4.70, and $2.80. Arch Traveler was good for $4.30 and $2.50, while Arch Traveler returned $2.30.
Justin Phillip is owned by Zayat Stables and conditioned by Steve Asmussen. He was bred in Kentucky by Oakbrook Farm and is out of the Cryptoclearance mare Ava Knowsthecode, herself graded stakes placed. Justin Phillip is a half brother to grade II winner Keyed Entry (by Honour and Glory) and grade III winner Successful Mission (by Successful Appeal ).
Zayat Stables purchased the winner for $400,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale of 2009 out of the consignment of his breeder. Valkyre Stud, agent, sold the horse. Justin Phillips has won three of 10 lifetime starts.
The Woody Stephens represented the first stakes win for Justin Phillip, who is named after owner Ahmed Zayat’s son. He improved his career earnings to $261,528.