Belmont Park Race Report: E-Exactly

Belmont Park Race Report: E-Exactly
Photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese
E Dubai posted an upset victory in the Suburban.
Published in the July 13 issue of The Blood-Horse
July 6 was E Day at Belmont Park. And not just because the $500,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) was won by E Dubai. It was the only letter needed to summarize what transpired.

Entry--Assistant trainer Tom Albertrani had no intention of entering E Dubai in the Suburban until he received a call from the racing office early on July 4 telling him they only had four starters and needed additional horses. Albertrani said he'd enter, but probably wouldn't run.

Easy Lead--Even though trainer Jim Bond was talked into entering Pleasant Breeze, the 7-year-old has lost a few steps and Albertrani began envisioning the fleet-footed E Dubai on an easy, uncontested lead. He began mulling over the possibility of running, then received the OK from Godolphin owner Sheikh Mohammed the night before the race.

Edge--If there is one type of horse you're looking for at Belmont Park these days, it's a speed horse, as "Big Sandy" has been playing its usual havoc with come-from-behind horses which, for the most part, have been fighting a losing battle.

Excuse--Joe Orseno, trainer of the come-from-behind favorite Macho Uno, saw the scenario that was unfolding and said all week he could be in big trouble. He had his built-in excuse, and unfortunately for him he was proven right.

Elementary--You didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what was going to happen. E Dubai toyed with Pleasant Breeze, opened up a clear lead through very soft fractions, then flew home the final quarter to win the Suburban.

As New York Racing Association racing secretary Mike Lakow said of their persuading Albertrani to enter, "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't." This time the drinks are on Albertrani.

So Albertrani, who was content to sit back and wait for either the Philip Iselin Handicap (gr. II) at Monmouth or the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), now has another titan in his Godolphin garrison. Street Cry, the stable's head honcho, will be pointed for the Whitney (gr. I), while E Dubai could prep for the Woodward (gr. I) in the Aug. 18 Iselin or Saratoga Breeders' Cup the day before.

The Suburban looked all week as if it were going to draw a five-horse field, headed by Macho Uno and Lido Palace, both carrying 119 pounds. Then, Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) winner Seeking Daylight sustained a fracture on Thursday, July 4, the morning entries were taken, and the racing office immediately went to work, hitting the phones.

One person not thrilled with the turn of events was Ron Anderson, agent for Jerry Bailey, the rider of Lido Palace. "I talked to Tom at eight o'clock on Thursday morning and he said he wasn't entering," Anderson said. "He told me, 'We'll just wait and maybe find something at Saratoga.' Then they called him and said they didn't have enough horses and asked him to enter and see what he thinks. I guess he looked it over and talked himself into running. Ouch."

Ouch is right. The 8,611 fans at Belmont could see a potential theft in the making and bet E Dubai down to 9-2, despite the colt's fourth-place finish in the Brooklyn, in which he was beaten nine lengths after pressing a blistering pace in the slop. But that was coming off a nine-month layoff, and the son of Mr. Prospector obviously needed the race.

"I was concerned about running him back three weeks after that race," Albertrani said, "especially being he went in the race off a nine-month layoff. You worry about the bounce factor. When the racing office called me, I told them I'd enter, but there was no guarantee he was going to run. We had talked almost every day during the week. We knew (Pleasant Breeze) only runs well on an off track, so he was just another horse to beat. When Sheikh Mohammed said Friday night he was quite happy to run the horse, we made our decision. Lido Palace was coming off a five-month layoff, and that's when they're vulnerable. Sometimes you have to take a chance."

Albertrani certainly wouldn't have hesitated taking that chance if he knew that E Dubai, carrying only 116 pounds, would be able to get away with a :24.10 opening quarter and :48.72 half over a track that had been spilling out :44 and change half-miles in sprints like clockwork. Pleasant Breeze did make two runs at the leader along the inside, but E Dubai easily shrugged him off both times and opened up again.

"Every time he got next to me, my horse gave me a little more," jockey John Velazquez said. "He'd open up and then put his ears up and relax. I didn't have to do much. I was pretty much a passenger until I got to the quarter pole. When I asked him, he responded instantly."

At that point Lido Palace, who had been stalking in third all the way, launched his bid, with Macho Uno right behind. But with six furlongs in a pedestrian 1:12.84 under him, E Dubai had plenty left. Lido Palace and Macho Uno dug in and kept coming, but neither could make a dent in E Dubai, who closed his final quarter in a rapid :23.84, completing the 1 1/4 miles in a solid 2:00.95.

After Velazquez took a peek behind him inside the sixteenth pole and saw he was in no danger, he relaxed a bit, then had to give E Dubai a little tap after the colt lost his concentration when he saw the lights on the finish line. Although Lido Palace and Macho Uno cut into the lead slightly, E Dubai still held a safe three-quarters of a length margin at the wire, with Lido Palace finishing a length before the even-money Macho Uno.

"His last race really did him a lot of good," Albertrani said. "He's a very genuine horse and gives 110 percent all the time."

Lido Palace's trainer Bobby Frankel knew he had little chance the way the race shaped up, and had to be content with the fact that his horse ran so well off the layoff. "E Dubai came home in :23 4/5 and Lido Palace made up about a length on him." Frankel said. "How's Lido going to catch him? Going a mile and a quarter, it's hard to come home any faster than that. If it was a match race, I'm sure Jerry would have gone after him sooner. It was a speed track and a speed horse beat us."

Orseno also was realistic after the race. "I was expecting a top effort and that's what I got," he said. "Inside speed has been good for the last two weeks. I was impressed my horse made up as much ground as he did from the sixteenth pole."

Lido Palace and Macho Uno both will take on Godolphin's heavy hitter Street Cry, and possibly Left Bank, in the Whitney in what promises to be one of the best races of the year. Then, E Dubai likely will re-join the fray in the Woodward Stakes, where a meeting between these five exciting handicap stars, and possibly several top 3-year-olds, would no doubt bring great expectations...with a capital E.

Continued

(Chart, Equibase)

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