Maiden Upsets Baptize in Pilgrim
by Blood-Horse Staff
Date Posted: 10/22/2000 6:37:09 PM
Last Updated: 10/23/2000 3:45:40 PM

Volponi, ridden by John Velazquez, captures the Pilgrim Stakes Sunday on closing day at Belmont Park.
Photo: Associated Press / NYRA / Adam Coglianese
Volponi earned his first career win Sunday at Belmont Park, upsetting formerly undefeated 4-5 favorite Baptize in the $113,300 Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT). The Philip Johnson-trained Volponi drew away from Baptize in the stretch under John Velazquez en route to the two-length victory. Earlier in the day, Velazquez won the co-featured Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) aboard Ruff.

In his career debut, Amherst Stable and Spruce Pond Stable's Volponi (Cryptoclearance--Prom Knight, by Sir Harry Lewis) finished third -- beaten by one length -- in a six-furlong turf maiden race won by Baptize. Since then, the 2-year-old finished second twice and third once while racing on dirt. Switched back to the firm turf at Belmont Park Sunday, Volponi relaxed early and used a four-wide move on the second turn to sweep by Baptize approaching the eighth-pole, completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.02. Baptize finished 4 1/4 lengths clear of third-place Strategic Partner. Tom the River Rat was fourth, followed by Reluctant Groom, Wicked Will, Credit Crunch, Broadway Johnny, What's Your Wish, and the Johnson-trained River Otter.

"The key to the race was Baptize, and we ran a length behind him the only time we ran (Volponi) on the turf and that was the reason we ran (Volponi) here. We've improved enough to certainly be a contender." said Johnson. "Every time I had him in a maiden turf race, it would rain and I would scratch him."

Volponi earned $67,980 for the win and returned $21.80, $6.00 and $3.50. Baptize paid $2.80 and $2.30. Strategic Partner was worth $3 to show. The winning exacta paid $52.50.

"I think the best thing for him might be to go to Camden, South Carolina, for the winter and bring him back in the spring," said Johnson. (Chart, Equibase)

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