Entrymates Romansh and Long River ran one-two in the $150,000 Excelsior Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack March 22, the winner surging back after being headed by his fellow Godolphin-owned rival (VIDEO).
Romansh, carrying top weight of 123 pounds based on his 9 1/4-length score and career-high Beyer of 110 in last November's Discovery Handicap (gr. III), won by a neck over Long River, and it was 4 1/4 lengths farther back to third-place finisher Percussion. The Godolphin duo was an overwhelming 1-4 favorite in the six-horse field.
Breaking alertly from the outside in the field of six, Romansh tracked pacesetter Percussion through opening fractions of :23.68 and :47.90. Long River was never far back, rating third on the rail as three-quarters went in 1:12.07.
Heading into the far turn, Romansh pulled jockey Jose Ortiz up to the front outside Percussion under his own power, and set off for home through a mile in 1:36.79. Long River, shifted outside by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., put in a good run to hook up with Romansh and actually poked a nose in front mid-stretch, but the inside horse fought back determinedly to put his neck in front on the line.
"My horse kind of waited, but he was still running," Jose Ortiz said. "Long River passed me, but as soon as Romansh felt that horse he kept going and responded very well."
Final time for the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and older was 1:49.07 on the fast inner track.
Romansh, a 4-year-old son of Bernardini , came into the Excelsior after finishing last of 11 in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 9, his season debut and first outing since winning the Discovery. He was awarded victory in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course last summer via disqualification, and ran fifth in the Travers (gr. I) in August and sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) in September before getting some time leading into his Discovery score in November.
"I was just hoping he'd redeem himself," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "His last race was so confusing. He trained well before the race and he came out of the race training well. Maybe it was a matter of the surface there or the fact he hadn't run in a while; just a couple of different things. It just didn't figure why he would run so bad.
"I think he's a serious horse. We've always thought that way. I had this horse at Palm Meadows as a 3-year-old and he was always the one that we talked about the most. He's got a good future. We'll play things by ear as far as his next race; 1 1/8 miles appears to be his best distance so we'll work around that. We know we have a nice horse for later on, maybe Saratoga and the Whitney (gr. I)."
Bred in Kentucky by Darley and Lynn B. Schiff out of the Go for Gin mare Cologny, Romansh improved his career record to four wins and a third from nine starts, with earnings of $373,580.