High Finance left the grade I winner Commentator behind in the final furlong to win the $197,500 Tom Fool Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Belmont Park Wednesday and register his first stakes victory for trainer Richard Violette Jr.
Ridden by John Velazquez, High Finance, on the inside, broke running and battled just off a blistering pace before drawing away late to win by 2 3/4 lengths in an solid seven-furlong time of 1:21 4/5. Owned by West Point Stable, High Finance signaled his readiness for a big effort Saturday with an eight-length win in a one-mile optional claiming event in a time of 1:33 2/5 in his previous start on May 27.
“Speed is great on this racetrack right now," Violette said. "The inside is terrific. Our plan was to break, go a few strides, and see what was taking shape. When Rondo went up in there, Johnny was content to let them fight in front of us. It looked like he had horse all the way.
"This horse has run two pretty hard races, and he likes his races spaced," the trainer added. "This is the first time he’s run two really big races back to back."
He said High Finance could return in the Forego Handicap (gr. I) at seven furlongs Sept. 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
Velazquez said he wanted to be part of the pace scenario.
"I sat there until the three-eighths pole, and then I started getting after them," he said. "He was there for me. I was pretty confident off the turn.”
Commentator, sent off at 1-2 with Corey Nakatani aboard, was game as ever for trainer Nick Zito. But never able to relax when challenged for the lead by Rondo after ripping off an opening quarter mile, Commentator, on the outside of the three front-runners, didn't have it when High Finance inched away approaching the furlong pole.
Awesome Twist, left far behind the field through fractions of :22 and :43 4/5, came on well through the lane to take second for Javier Castellano. Commentator settled for third, a half-length behind the runner-up.
The winner carried 114 pounds to victory, five fewer than the high-weighted Commentator.
High Finance, a 4-year-old colt by Talk is Money--Margay (Conquistador Cielo), improved his record to 5-3-1 in 14 starts while increasing his earnings to $295,850. High Finance won for the third time in four starts at Belmont Park and is now 3-for-7 at seven furlongs.
Dan Borislow bred the chestnut, a $120,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale in 2004, in Kentucky.
Sent off as the third choice in the field of six, High Finance paid $13.20, $6.10, and $2.90 while topping a $110.50 exacta with Awesome Twist, who returned $7.50 and $3.30. Tracy Farmer's Commentator, in his second start of the season, was $2.10 to show.
Zito blamed the torrid pace on Commentator's late falter.
"The winner ran a great race," he noted. "Once we cleared, I thought we would be OK. But the reason why we didn’t stay clear is because they went the second quarter in :21. Hopefully, he’ll come out all right. This was only his second race back. We’ll see what happens.”
Rondo, Will He Shine, and Istan completed the order. Saint Anddan scratched.