Alice Muller's even-money choice Take D' Tour opened up a sizable lead in the stretch and held on under Eibar Coa to make it back-to-back victories in the $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) for fillies and mares at Belmont Park Saturday.
The one-turn specialist went over the $1 million mark in career earnings while completing the 1 1/16-mile test in a solid 1:41 1/5 to defeat Ginger Punch and David Flores by a long neck. After surviving a hot early pace, Take D' Tour became only the third to win back-to-back runnings of the Phipps Handicap. Take D’ Tour joins Heatherten (1984-’85) and Sightseek (2003-’04) as repeat winners in this race, formerly the Hempstead Handicap (re-named in 2002). She carried 118 pounds Saturday.
David Fawkes trains Take D' Tour, a 6-year-old Tour d'Or mare who won for the third time in five starts on the Belmont Park main track. She was coming off a second place finish, 1 1/4 lengths behind Ermine, in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 7 at Oaklawn Park, and captured last year's Phipps by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:42 3/5.
Take D' Tour pressed Teammate on the outside for the first half-mile after fractions of :23 and :44 4/5, then put the pacesetter away coming off the turn to lead after six furlongs in 1:09 1/5. Urged on by Coa, she opened up a 3 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole and needed every bit of it to win under strong handling over the fast-closing Ginger Punch. It was more than eight lengths back to third-place finisher Promenade Girl, ridden by Mike Luzzi. Miss Shop, Bushfire, and Teammate rounded out the six-horse finish.
“I was so happy to see her break the way she did,” said Fawkes. “She was going easy the first eighth of a mile, then Eibar said that as soon as she got eyeball to eyeball with (Teammate), they both went. Once she shook off that filly, she had a little opportunity to get a breather. She had a little kick left at the end.
“It was nice to win this race the first time, and it is a thrill to win it a second time. We decided to stretch her races out this year and give her more time between starts. She runs so hard. I think that is what cost a chance to go to the Breeders’ Cup last year. She ran too many hard races."
With an eye on the 2007 Breeders' Cup for the mare, Fawkes said he is probably going to wait for the Molly Pitcher Breeders’ Cup (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park Aug. 25.
The Florida homebred winner, out of the Mr. Washington mare Cherry Flare, earned her 10th win in 24 starts with earnings of $1,032,740. She returned to the winner's circle for the first time since taking Calder's Stage Door Betty Handicap (gr. III) Dec. 30. She has four wins and four seconds in 11 starts at the distance.
“I always have a lot of confidence on her,” Coa said. “The last two times she ran in California and Oaklawn, she just couldn’t handle the post parades. She just wasted herself. Today, she was still a little bit bad, but she handled herself better. This was a big performance. She ran really fast. In my mind, I never thought I was going that fast, but with her, you never know. I was very happy sitting outside of Teammate. She walked nice to the end of the tunnel and then was a monster to the starting gate.”
She paid $4.10, $2.50, and $2.10.
Stronach Stables' Ginger Punch returned $3.70 and $2.90 in her grade I debut for trainer Bobby Frankel.
Promenade Girl was $5.70 to show.