Michael Tabor's Left Bank pressed the early pace then inched clear to win Saturday's $105,900 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont Park. Under John Velazquez, the 5-year-old son of French Deputy completed the six furlongs in 1:09.30 on the fast main track.
Left Bank was making his first start since winning the Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) last November. He raced in third through the opening quarter-mile, just to the outside of Wrangler and Say Florida Sandy. Left Bank took a short lead following a half-mile run in :45.17 then held off longshot Silky Sweep in deep stretch to win by a length. Silky Sweep finished a half-length ahead of Say Florida Sandy, with Wrangler nine lengths farther back. Late Carson was scratched.
Just after crossing the finish line Left Bank ducked, unseating Velazquez.
"I had a good trip," said Velazquez. "He felt good, but I knew he might break sluggish making his first start of the year. I didn't want to use him too much. Once he got going, he picked it up. He was galloping fine, and all of a sudden, he ducked like a two-year-old. He never acted like that before. I twisted my left ankle a little."
Left Bank earned $63,646 for the win, his 12th in 21 career starts and fourth in a graded stakes. Aside from Saturday's race and the Cigar Mile, he also won the seven-furlong Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) and the 1 1/8-mile Discovery Handicap (gr. III).
"I told Johnny in the paddock that the first priority is to win and the second is to save me a little something for 16 days (for the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, gr. I)," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "I don't think Johnny ever had to go to a hard ride on him. I thought he finished big and galloped out well until the point when he dropped Johnny. It looks like he came back fine from it. I was watching his gallop out closely because I wanted to see how much he had left. He wears the blinkers for a reason and he obviously saw something."
Left Bank paid $2.70 and $2.20 and topped the $17.80 exacta. Silky Sweep paid $4.30 to place. There was no show wagering due to the small field.
John Youngblood and Fletcher Gray bred the $600,000 2-year-old purchase in Kentucky. (Chart, Equibase