Master Command Dominates 3 Rivals in NJC 'Cap

(from Hawthorne report)
Aaron and Marie Jones’ Master Command made short work of three overmatched rivals when he drew off to win the $250,000 National Jockey Club Handicap (gr. III) {VIDEO} at Hawthorne by a convincing 3 3/4 lengths Saturday, helping him to eclipse $1 million dollars in earnings.

The time for the 1 1/8 mile race was 1:49.2 over a fast track.

Shortly after the break, it was apparent there would only be two horses involved in the serious running. Sweetnorthernsaint, as expected, had the lead leaving the starting gate despite an awkward break. But never far behind was the 2-5 favorite and eventual winner, Master Command, as they clipped off fractions of :23 3/5, :46 4/5 and 1:10 2/5.

Stalking Sweetnorthsaint was the strategy and it paid off for winning jockey John Velazquez. “I wanted to stay right next to him (Sweetnorthernsaint) and not give him too much of a breather,” said Velazquez. “He was doing it pretty comfortably. I didn’t have to help him.”

Sweetnorthernsaint still had the lead as they approached the three quarter mark of the race, but from there it was all Master Command. The Todd Pletcher trained son of A.P. Indy exploded past the front runner and opened up through the stretch, the easiest of winners. “I tapped him on the shoulders a few times to keep him alert, but otherwise he did it real nice,” said the winning jockey.

For runner-up, Sweetnornthernsaint, a slow start probably didn’t help his cause, but it looked like it made little difference.

“He doesn’t break well anytime, but it didn’t matter. That horse (Master Command) was just too good for him,” said Sweetnorthernsaint’s jockey Mario Pino. Michael Trombetta, the trainer of  Sweetnorthernsaint, also noted his gelding’s slow starting tendencies but was pleased with the effort. “He’s just not the most agile at getting out of the gate, but some horses are just like that. I’m not disappointed with the effort,” Trombetta added. “Sure you want to win, but the horse ran well today.”

It was a city block back (37 1/4 lengths) to Le Jester in third, with Courthouse trailing

For Master Command, the victory, worth $151,875, makes it three straight graded stakes wins. Assistant trainer Virginia DePasquale, subbing for Pletcher, was impressed. “He keeps doing everything we ask of him. He seems to really love what he’s doing.”

Master Command paid $2.80 and $2.10. Sweetnorthernsaint returned $2.10.

(Chart, Equibase)

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