Pool Land tracked favored Take D' Tour through wickedly fast early fractions, then pulled away in the stretch to win the $300,000 Ruffian (gr. I) for fillies and mares at Belmont Park Sunday.
The winner had faded when last seen pressing Take D' Tour in Saratoga's nine-furlong Go for Wand (gr. I) July 30. But the Melnyk Racing Stables' filly was a bit tighter for trainer Todd Pletcher Sunday and trying a one-turn 1 1/16-mile distance over the Belmont layout for the first time.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Pool Land earned her first grade I win in a time of 1:41 4/5 on a fast track. She took command mid-stretch and edged away to a two-length win over Take D' Tour.
The runner-up, who had won both of her previous races at Belmont Park – the Shuvee (gr. II) and Phipps (gr. I) handicaps – was ridden by Cornelio Velasquez. After giving way to Pool Land grudgingly, she edged Miss Shop and Fernando Jara by a half-length for second.
"I wanted to keep enough pressure on (Velasquez) so that he could settle (Take D' Tour) but have to have her run at the same time," Velazquez said. "His horse was breathing pretty hard, mine was handling it pretty easy. She was going really good."
Take D' Tour flew through early fractions of :22 3/5 and :45 3/5 with Pool Land pushing on her outside while about one length off the pace. Summerly, with Garrett Gomez aboard, and Miss Shop took back down the backstretch but were never far behind the leaders. They moved as a team on the turn after six furlongs in 1:10 1/5 and, as the four contenders spread out coming into the lane, it appeared that any of them could prevail. But it was the 4-year-old Pool Land that emerged under strong encouragement from Velazquez and proved best under steady handling for the final furlong.
Summerly finished fourth, with outsider Classy Charm last in the field of five.
The $600,000 Beldame (gr. I) at nine furlongs on Oct. 7 would be a likely next stop at Belmont, but it is also just as likely that Pletcher will wait and train Pool Land up to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Churchill Downs Nov. 4.
"I would think Todd would probably keep her fresh for the Breeders' Cup," said Tristan Barry, Pletcher's assistant.
Pool Land, a $475,000 daughter of Silver Deputy
--Slew City Slicker (Slew City Slew
), finished third in the Go for Wand – defeated by Spun Sugar by 6 1/2 lengths – in her only previous grade I race. Prior to that, she won the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. III) at Pimlico May 19. She has won all four of her starts at the 1 1/16-mile distance.
Overall, Pool Land has won six of eight starts with earnings of $489,976.
Kings Way Farm Inc. and Windfield Farm bred Pool Land in Kentucky.
The narrow second choice in the short field, she paid $5.20, $2.80, and $2.60. Take D' Tour returned $2.80 and $2.50. Miss Shop was $3 to show.
The Beldame is a strong possibility for Take D'Tour.
"She ran real big," said trainer David Fawkes. "She was pressured the whole way. She was very game. It looked like she tried to come back at Pool Land late. The pace was a little quicker than I would have liked to have gone. We'll stay here and run back in the Beldame."