Odds-on choice Pommes Frites notched her fifth win of the year in sharp fashion Sunday, sweeping past the pacesetter Virden mid-stretch and rolling to victory in the $112,300 Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares on the Belmont Park inner turf course.
Ridden by Jose Santos for trainer Bill Mott and breeder/owner Haras Santa Maria de Araras, the 4-year-old Dynaformer
was always in control when taken in hand and stalking a slow pace in second until moving up on the outside to challenge. She took command in the final eighth of a mile and won under a drive by a comfortable three-quarter of a length over second choice Chaibia while clocking 1:42 4/5 for the nine-furlong distance on firm going.
Pommes Frites found the opposition more to her liking Sunday. She was second to top turf female Karen's Caper, beaten by three parts of a length, in her last start Sept. 2 in Belmont's Noble Dancer Breeders' Cup Handicap. Earlier this year, she lost by a length to Gorella in the Just a Game Handicap (gr. IIT). Those two races were the only losses for Pommes Frites this year. She has also won five of seven at the 1 1/8-mile distance.
Virden led early and was in front by as much as seven lengths on the backstretch while bouncing along with easy fractions of :25 2/5, :49 and 1:13 3/5. On the turn for home, the field took closer order with Pommes Frites leading the charge. Pommes Frites got the lead with Chaibia within striking distance and Dream Lady rallying on the outside but neither challenger was able to make any headway until the race was all but over. Chaibia defeated Dream Lady by three-quarters of a length for second.
Pommes Frites, who earned $67,380 for the victory, won for the eighth time in 16 lifetime starts. The dark bay has banked $432,466.
Carrying top weight of 118 pounds, she paid $3.80, $2.70 and $2.20. Chaibia, carrying five pounds less and ridden by John Velazquez, returned $4.20 and $3.10. Dream Lady, 115, Edgar Prado aboard, was $3.40 to show.
Virden finished fourth, followed by Isabel Away, Bright Abundance, Thetactics Ofdance and Marchonin.