Friendly Island attended the early pace, then took over in the stretch to win the $190,000 Emirates Airline Maryland Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico Saturday by three-quarters of a length. It was the second stakes win in a row for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Garrett Gomez.
Pletcher's runners have been saddled at Pimlico by assistant Ginny DePasquale.
"He ran very good and Garrett rode him perfectly," she said. "He's been training well."
Friendly Island, the 8-5 favorite, returned $5.60, $4.20, and $3. Longshot Celtic Innis rallied for second and paid $14.40 and $5.20. Second-choice Gaff finished a head back in third and paid $3.20. The 4-5 exacta returned $74.20.
Friendly Island broke best in the six-furlong race, but was overtaken by Kazoo, who set the early fractions of :23.35 and :46.33. Friendly Island stalked in second on the outside with Gaff and Celtic Innis also giving chase. On the turn, Crafty Schemer made a move, but then flattened out. Friendly Island had the advantage after five furlongs in :57.99 and finished under brisk urging. The final time was 1:09.94.
"Kazoo got the lead, but I wasn't going to let him away too soft," Gomez said. "This horse was push-button all the way home. I was just a passenger. I had all the confidence in the world in Todd. They're all good horses, and it makes my job easy."
Bred in New York by Kildare Stud and Adrian Regan, Friendly Island is a 5-year-old son of Crafty Friend
out of the Ogygian mare Island Queen. He is owned by Stuart and Anita Subnotic's Anstu Stables.
Friendly Island was registering his first win of the year in four starts. In a pair of efforts at Gulfstream Park this winter, he ran third behind Gaff in the Mr. Prospector Handicap (gr. III) and sixth in the Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III). On April 13, he ran second to Bordonaro in the Count Fleet Speed Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn.
Overall, he now has a 7-1-1 mark from 13 career starts and earnings of $426,214.
Kazoo finished fourth, followed by Crafty Schemer, Gold Cluster and Better Than Bonds.