King Kreesa leads them home in the Poker Stakes.
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King Kreesa leads them home in the Poker Stakes.
Order This Photo

Coglianese Photos

King Kreesa's Hand Holds Up in Poker Stakes

July 4 victory at Belmont Park is the first in a graded stakes for New York-bred.

After defeating other New York-breds on the lead in his previous start, King Kreesa replicated that front-running effort against open company in the $150,000 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) July 4 at Belmont Park to secure the first graded stakes win of his career (VIDEO).

With regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. showing the way, Gerald and Susan Kresa's King Kreesa opened a clear lead over a tracking Howe Great through a quarter-mile in :23.81 and half-mile in :47.19. At the half-mile pole, 3-5 favorite Data Link  and Javier Castellano launched a move, but they would flatten and finish fourth.

King Kreesa enjoyed a clear lead at every call and cruised home with a 1 1/2-length victory over Howe Great, who tracked throughout. Dogwood Stable's Big Screen, who scored a front-running victory in the off-the-turf Jaipur Stakes June 7 at Belmont, finished third as the top three at the finish was the same as the top three at the half mile pole.

Ortiz credited trainer Jeremiah Englehart and his team with teaching King Kreesa to race within his comfort zone early.

"Before he was a little nervous, and now he's more relaxed," Ortiz said. "He gave me everything that he had today. I had to let him run, because that's what he likes. He's going to put you wherever he wants to go."

Last year King Kreesa just missed scoring a grade I victory when he led into deep stretch against other horses his age before yielding to King David in the Jamaica Handicap. Since that Oct. 6 effort, the 4-year-old King Cugat gelding placed in two more grade III races this year and entered the Poker off a front-running Kingston Stakes tally for New York-breds June 1 at Belmont.

"We were hoping for a repeat of the Kingston, with nice easy fractions, and that's what we got," said Gerald Kresa. "We love Irad. It's a thrill for (King Kreesa) to get his first graded stakes win; he'd been close several times."

King Kreesa completed the one-turn mile race in 1:33.65 on a firm Widener turf course and returned $11 to win, $5.50 to place, and $6.50 to show. Team Valor International's Howe Great paid $7.20 and $7.40, and Big Screen returned $13.60 to show. Show prices were inflated by Data Link's out-of-the-money finish.

Bred in New York by Horse Partners, King Kreesa has a record of 5-3-2 from 14 starts and earnings of $434,370. Out of the Storm Creek mare Storm's Advance, King Kreesa has won four stakes races and placed in four other stakes in two seasons of racing.

Data Link was followed by Lubash, Shkspeare Shaliyah, and Upgrade. Politicallycorrect was entered for the main track only.