Sam-Son Farms' homebred Up With the Birds closed with a rush to take the $500,000 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) Oct. 5 at Belmont Park, earning his first graded stakes victory for trainer Malcolm Pierce (VIDEO). It was also Pierce's first grade I score.
Invading from Woodbine, where he won the Aug. 18 Breeders' Stakes after running second in the July 7 Queen's Plate, the Ontario-bred son of Stormy Atlantic went 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf in 1:48.74 as he edged Admiral Kitten by half a length.
"After he won the Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine, the owners all got together," Pierce said. "This is a big step up from running against Canadian-breds in a grade I in New York, but we said, 'What the heck. Let's give it a try.' He deserved this chance."
According to Pierce, the 3-year-old colt will not head to the Breeders' Cup World Championships, and there are no more plans for him this season.
"He's run hard all year," Pierce said. "He's going home for a rest now after this race...We just wanted to keep him against straight 3-year-olds and this looked like a nice spot to try. We freshened him up with this race in mind. This is his sixth start of the season, but he's run hard every race.
"We give him plenty of time between his races. We passed the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales, on purpose. If we'd have won the Queen's Plate, there might have been pressure to run in the Prince of Wales, but this horse has never run on dirt. It looks like his best is on turf, as we found out today."
Jockey Cornelio Velasquez found running room three wide while eighth in a field of 12 around the opening bend, gradually making up ground as favorite Get in Line set pedestrian early fractions of :25.34, :49.98, and 1:13.76.
"I wanted to try and save ground, but there was a lot of traffic on the inside," Velasquez said. "I followed (Notacatbutallama) around the turn and once I got him to the outside, he gave me a good run. (Admiral Kitten) was coming on, but my horse dug in. He's a nice horse."
With about a sixteenth to go after closing with a four-wide run heading into the stretch, Up With the Birds edged away to get the victory. Admiral Kitten closed well for the place after getting hung eight wide under Rosie Napravnik.
"He ran excellent," Napravnik said. "He's the kind of horse that you can't change his running style. He just lags around the first turn and makes a big run. He ran huge."
Up With the Birds went off at 4-1, returning $10.20, $5.30, and $3.50. Admiral Kitten brought $4.70 and $3, and third-place finisher Jack Milton paid $3.30. Notacatbutallama, Joha, Stormy Len, Mills, War Dancer, Balance the Books, Global Asset, Michael With Us, and Get in Line completed the order of finish. Five Iron scratched.
Out of the Seeking The Gold mare Song Of The Lark, Up With the Birds has never finished off the board and boasts a 6-2-1 record from nine starts, good for earnings of $1,147,069.