Mr. Light Shows Way in Poker Handicap

Argentine-bred Mr. Light found a lightning pace to his liking in Sunday's $100,000-added Poker Handicap, sweeping past the field in mid-stretch and holding off the late closer Willard Straight on the Belmont Park Widener turf course.

Favored Mr. Light, who set a world record for a mile on the turf of 1:31 2/5 at Gulfstream Park in January, completed the eight furlongs on the firm Belmont going in an admirable 1:32, just two ticks off the course mark.

With Cornelio Velasquez aboard, the Angel Penna-trained 6-year-old son of Numerous won by a half-length over Willard Straight, who was ridden by Rafael Bejarano. Remind finished third.

"When he got the lead, he waited on horses a little bit," Velasquez said. "But he was very strong."

L'Oiseau d'Argent helped ensure the big finish with blazing early fractions – :22 1/5 and :44 4/5 – but he couldn't shake Seeking the Glory and Gulch Approval and was unable to hold off the late runners, finishing fourth.

"Cornelio (Velasquez) knows this horse so well that I don't have to tell him anything," Penna said. "I can't complain about anything with him. He's a nice horse. I don't know if he is at the top of the line yet."

Penna said the Bernard Baruch (Gr. II) on Aug. 1 at Saratoga Race Course is a likely destination, although it is nine furlongs.

"The extra eighth might bother him a little bit, but we've got to face the music now," he said.

Mr. Light, who followed his world-record effort with a victory in Gulfstream's Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT) Feb. 12, ran fourth in his last start behind Artie Schiller in the Maker's Mark (gr. IIT) at Keeneland April 15. Penna gave Mr. Light some time off with a twisted ankle but showed a steady and strong work pattern since late May.

Earle Mack owns the Mr. Light.

The chestnut horse won for the sixth time in 16 lifetime starts, paying $7.30, $4 and $2.60. Willard Straight returned $4.20 and $2.80. Remind, who was ridden by Edgar Prado, was worth $2.90 to show.

Gulch Approval, Ecclesiastic and Seeking the Glory trailed. Trade Fair was scratched, as was main-track only entrant Aggadan.

(Chart, Equibase)