Darley Stable's Le Bernardin faltered while making his stakes bow in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes on May 12, but returned Sunday at Monmouth Park to gut out a neck victory in the Grade 3, $103,000 Pegasus Stakes with jockey Mike Luzzi aboard. The Kiaran McLaughlin pupil ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt in 1:44 2/5 as the 5-1 fourth pick and returned $12, $5.40 and $3.40.
"It was a great win and an excellent ride by Mike Luzzi," McLaughlin said. "The horse seemed to be lugging in for much of the race, but Mike did a great job. I've never noticed that he's been a tough horse to ride in the past, but Mike knows him well and did a great job today.
"The (Grade 1) Haskell (on July 29) is obviously a race we'll look at after we see how he comes out of this."
Le Bernardin settled into second just outside of pacesetter Innocent Man through the opening half-mile in :23 2/5 and :47 3/5, but found himself in third when even-money favorite Good Morning Diva scooted through on the inside of the leader to challenge while passing three-quarters in 1:12. Luzzi let out a notch and Le Bernardin quickly drew even with Innocent Man as Good Morning Diva raced in tandem down on the rail rounding the turn.
Easter Gift had 1 1/4 lengths to spare on Good Morning Diva, who in turn was up 3 3/4 lengths on Innocent Man crossing under the line. Midnight Serenade followed while Speeding Again completed the order of finish after Unbridled's Way was pulled up in the stretch and vanned off.
"We'll definitely have to think about the (1 1/8-mile) Haskell after his race today," said Nick Zito, trainer of Easter Gift. "He handled two turns fine and came running at the end. I thought it was a very good race and something we can build off of."
Le Bernardin just opened his racing career this year, finishing fourth in his debut over Aqueduct's inner dirt in January. The sophomore was brought back two months later and this time posted a three-quarter length decision against maiden rivals. He stayed at the Big A when the venue switched to the main track meet and added an allowance win to his resume before fading to last in the Peter Pan most recently.
Bred in Kentucky by Mike G. Rutherford, Le Bernardin sold for $325,000 as a Saratoga Selected yearling. He is out of the Grade 2-winning Wild Again mare La Rosa, making him a half-brother to Grade 3 victress Taittinger Rose. La Rosa is herself a daughter of 1985 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies heroine Twilight Ridge and a half-sister to multiple stakes diva Daylight Ridge.
This female family is also responsible for Grade 1 winners Crested Wave and Sensitive Prince as well as Grade 2 vixen Wavy Waves.