Any Limit holds off Wild Gams to take the First Flight.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Any Limit holds off Wild Gams to take the First Flight.
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Any Limit Goes Distance in First Flight

The 5-year-old mare held off Wild Gams to win for the first time in nearly 17 months

Joseph V. Fields Jr.’s homebred mare Any Limit hit the winner’s circle for the first time in nearly 17 months July 4 at Belmont, getting the early jump on six rivals, then holding off Wild Gams in a determined stretch drive to narrowly win the $150,000 First Flight Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO).

Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, Any Limit hit the top of the stretch a half-length in front, battled Wild Gams and Alan Garcia the entire straightaway while close to the rail, and prevailed by a neck. The final time for seven furlongs on the muddy main track was 1:23.86. Wild Gams, who entered off a victory in the May 24 My Juliet Stakes at Philadelphia Park, was a length and a half in front of third-place Rite Moment, the post time favorite.

Trained by Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, Any Limit entered the First Flight off a fourth-place finish in the May 25 Vagrancy (gr. II) at Belmont, where she was more than 10 lengths back of Rite Moment. In that 6 1/2-furlong contest, the 5-year-old Limit Out mare also finished behind First Flight entrant Baroness Thatcher. Prior to that, Any Limit made her return from an 11-month layoff in the Upper Noosh Stakes at Belmont, finishing third.

It was evident early on in the First Flight that Any Limit was in better form in her third start back from the layoff, as she broke to the early lead from the outside while Akronism, Rite Moment, Baroness Thatcher, and Windy tracked her. Setting brisk opening fractions of :22.58 and :45.40, Any Limit was a full length in front of Akronism at the half-mile marker.

Any Limit stayed close to the rail and continued to lead as they came out of the turn. At the top of the stretch her only legitimate threat was Wild Gams, who came running with a four-wide move from off the pace to challenge at the eighth-pole. Although the two rivals were nearly even in their stretch duel, Any Limit never did relinquish her short advantage.

"Today, she was nice and relaxed," Velasquez said. "Turning for home, I still had a lot of horse. Three-quarters is a little short for her, and last time, the filly that outran her went too fast. The change in track condition was not a concern. But she was in great condition and ready to run.”

Any Limit’s last victory came Feb. 17, 2007 in the Hurricane Bertie Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. It was her second consecutive graded score, as she had captured the First Lady Handicap (gr. III) one month prior. Bred in Kentucky and out of the Forty Niner mare Clandestinely, she has now produced a record of 7-1-5 from 20 starts and $433,138 in earnings.

"That really made me feel good," said Jerkens, who considered retiring Any Limit after a serious foot injury last year. "She could have been retired. Mr Shields said, `It’s fun to have a horse running.’ I was a little concerned when it started raining, but it stopped in time. There wasn’t a lot of mud flying – it was perfect. The six weeks off made her stronger. It worked out good, and we hope she’ll be good for Saratoga.”

The fifth choice in a field of seven, the winner paid $13.60, $7.70, and $3.90. The exacta (7-6) returned $72.50 while the trifecta (7-6-2) netted $264.

Windy finished fourth, followed by Akronism, Baroness Thatcher, and Ice Cool Kitty.

(Chart, Equibase)