The victory was a sweet one for trainer Nick Zito and Morning Line's owner, Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, who saw the colt finish second by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) last November and second in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 5.
Morning Line, who was bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm, notched his second graded stakes score and fourth win overall from 10 career starts. As a 3-year-old, he won the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).
Apriority, who had won four of his last five starts, including an impressive optional claiming score March 5 at Gulfstream, took over from the tiring pacesetter when they came off the turn and forged a narrow advantage at the eighth pole with Luis Saez aboard. Morning Line, never far from the leaders, was only a length from the front but had a lot of work to do to get the new leader, who was still traveling well. But he was up to the task, as he finally wore Apriority down in deep stretch and won going away by 1 1/2 lengths.
The final time for seven furlongs on the fast main track was 1:21.46. Apriority was 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Yawanna Twist.
“I had a very good trip," Velazquez said. "Everything went pretty much the way we hoped it would. He has hard time getting around the turns, but once he’s down in the lane, he’ll give you another gear. He finished up very well.”
Morning Line, a $700,000 Keeneland September sale yearling in 2008, is out of the A.P. Indy mare Indian Snow. He has now earned $1,114,800.
“Amazing. I'm very grateful," Zito said. "I'm very happy for the horse. He's lost some tough ones; the Breeders’ Cup Mile was a heartbreaker. The Donn was a heartbreaker. He's such a well-deserving grade I horse. He beat a top horse. It was a great run race. He did what a professional horse is supposed to do. He's just a very versatile horse. He'll probably run any distance.”
The winner paid $6.20, $3.10, and $2.50. The exacta (10-7) returned $15.40 and the trifecta (10-7-6) was worth $70.
Kensei was fourth, followed by Laysh Laysh Laysh, Sunrise Smarty, Fastus Cactus, and More Than a Reason. Calibrachoa, Have You Ever, Be Bullish, and Independence War were all scratched.