Effie Trinket, a dark bay or brown filly campaigned by Patsy Symons, made it consecutive stakes victories after a dramatic stretch duel in the $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes Oct. 19, one of two races on turf along with the $200,000 Mohawk Stakes during Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park.
"How game is she? She can do anything," said winning trainer Rick Violette following Effie Trinket's nose victory over Sally's Dream in the 1 1/16-mile inner turf battle. "She has won on the lead, she has won stalking, she's made one big run to get it."
Two races later, 2-1 favorite King Kreesa captured the Mohawk at the same distance over the Widener course.
Breaking from the rail at 7-2 odds, Effie Trinket traveled in fourth for most of the journey as jockey Luis Saez rated the 3-year-old Freud filly. The pace was made by Harbor Mist, who set fractions of :24.77, :49.20, and 1:13.33. Finding room to angle outward before the stretch, Effie Trinket split rivals in the drive and grabbed a small lead before being challenged by Sally's Dream, who came up on the outside (VIDEO).
"Here she kind of stalked and had to wait," said Violette. "Everyone was packing her in. She's a small horse, so she needed just a small hole to get through. (Rajiv Maragh aboard Sally's Dream) did a good job; he had us kind of hemmed in."
Engaged in a serious head-to-head battle, the pair hit the mile mark in 1:36.56 before reaching the wire in 1:42.45 for a photo finish.
"She's a very, very nice filly. I was very nervous," said Saez of the stretch battle. "I knew I had a horse but I didn't have room. I had to wait and wait, and when I saw Rajiv (Maragh) on my outside, I though he was going to beat me...when I changed my whip to my left hand she responded. She loved it."
Effie Trinket, coming off a neck victory in the Sept. 15 John Hettinger Stakes over the same Belmont course at nine furlongs, posted her sixth lifetime win from 10 starts. She has earned $432,152.
"She just battled back and put a nose in front. It was very, very cool," said Violette.
Pressing the pace of front-running Abilio, Gerald and Susan Kresa's King Kreesa proved the best in the second turf feature race on the card, the Mohawk.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. piloted the Jeremiah Englehart-trained King Kreesa in second behind fractions of :23.28, :46.34, 1:10.02, and 1:33.15. After minor contact with Kharafa early on, Gerald and Susan Kresa's King Cugat son was settled off the inside, and remained in hand until approaching the quarter pole.
The pressure mounting, King Kreesa dug in, taking the lead in the stretch and inching away to hit the wire 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Lubash in a final time of 1:39.26 (VIDEO).
"Once (King Kreesa) got the lead coming around (the turn) I figured he'd hold it," said Gerald Kresa. "He's tough."
"He relaxed pretty good today," said jockey Ortiz, King Kreesa's regular rider. "He ran like he was in front. I talked with (Englehart) today, and we saw there was speed in the race. We had in mind that if we had to, we would sit second or third. We had Plan B and that worked for us"