Favored Bribon used a huge sweeping move on the turn to open a big lead in the stretch en route to his first graded stakes win in the $110,000 Westchester (gr. III) (VIDEO) April 29 as Belmont Park opened its 2009 spring/summer meet.
Jockey Alan Garcia took a chance when he swung the 6-year-old French bred five paths wide to take control at the quarter pole of the one-mile Westchester. But Bribon proved up to the task in the long Belmont homestretch, opening up a three-length advantage and holding on under strong right-handed urging for a one-length triumph over the deep closing Discreet Treasure.
Owned by Marc Keller and trained by Robert Ribaudo, Bribon won for the second time in four starts this year after beginning his campaign in Florida. The gelded son of Mark of Esteem was coming off a fourth-place finish in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) March 14.
The winning time for the one-turn Westchester was 1:35.38.
Bribon was reserved in sixth for the first half-mile as Per Incanto, Spin Master and Formidable dueled on the front end through sizzling opening splits of :22.59 and :44.58. Bribon answered quickly, though, as the field made its way around the turn to gain control on the far outside and pull away from his rivals mid-stretch. Discreet Treasure, last in the field of eight under Cornelio Velasquez leaving the bend, charged six wide from the top of the stretch and was gaining on the winner as they crossed the wire.
“It is great to be back at Belmont Park,” exclaimed Garcia, who won before an opening-day crowd of 5,105. “My trip today was great. He broke good and settled down well. Around the quarter pole, I asked him to run but when he got to the lead, he started playing around a little bit. I got to work on him, and by the last sixteenth I knew he had won it.”
Ribaudo said he will point Bribon to the$600,000 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont on Memorial Day, May 25.
“You know, we were doing really good coming into this race,” Ribaudo said. “I was little concerned that he moved too soon today, though. He was taking Alan really aggressively into those fast fractions, but everything turned out all right. As long as he comes out of this all right, our goal is the Met Mile, but he’s got to come out of it all right.”
It was 4 1/2 lengths back to third-place finisher Mor Chances, ridden by Richard Migliore. Spin Master, dual grade I-victor Tale of Ekati, Formidable, and Per Incanto followed.
Tale of Ekatai, last year's Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner and the narrow second-choice to Bribon, broke slowly once again in spite of donning blinkers for trainer Barclay Tagg. He angled five wide for the drive but was forced to steady at the three-sixteenths pole and never recovered.
Bribon, the third-place finisher in last November's Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I), a race won on disqualification by Tale of Ekati , has had moments of brilliance as well as numerous disappointments in a 26-race career that includes seven wins and 17 in-the-money efforts. The chestnut began his career in France in 2005, winning two of seven starts as a 2-year-old. He earned $66,000 for the Westchester victory, pushing his lifetime bankroll to $375,607.
Sired by Darpat Si, Bribon is out of the Arazi mare Rowat Arazi.
Bribon carried 119 pounds, two fewer than the top-weighted Tale of Ekati, and paid $7.70, $4.80 and $2.90. Discreet Treasure returned $9.80 and $5.90. Mor Chances, whose four-race winning streak was snapped, paid $5.90 to show.
Cave's Valley and Wishful Tomcat scratched.