'Devil's Late Move Lands Empire Classic

(from Belmont Park report)
Hardwicke Stable's late-running Spite the Devil found himself to be the right horse in the right spot to win Saturday's $250,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park.

Thanks to an exceptional pace, the 4-year-old son of Devil His Due rallied from last with a wide run down the middle of the track and defeat favored West Virginia by a head in the nine-furlong finale to New York Showcase Day.

"That was great," said winning trainer H. Allen Jerkens. "He likes to come from off of a fast pace, so it set up very nicely for him. We got lucky and he got a great ride. It's very nice for us because my wife owns the horse. This should help pay for some of the mare's bills."

Spite the Devil, who was fourth in this race last year at 23-1, was sent off at odds of 15-1. It was his sixth win from 30 starts, and the winner's purse of $150,000 raised his career earnings to $599,661.

Spite the Devil got plenty of help from Citizenship, Rogue Agent and Mr. Determined, as they fought on a torrid pace of :23; :45 3/5 and 1:10 1/5. Mr. Determined, who ran third here last year at 68-1, joined the fray after a half-mile and stayed around for the finish.

The field bunched up thanks to the fast fractions and jockey Javier Castellano found that he had plenty of room outside to pass them all in one big run.

"I don't ride for (Jerkens) a lot, but I'm glad they gave me the opportunity and I am happy that everything worked out," Castellano said. "The pace was so fast in the beginning. I had the opportunity to put him outside. I asked him and he took off."

West Virginia had every opportunity but came up a head short.

"I thought it would have been a better race if we were a head better," trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Mr. Determined, at 47.50-1, lasted for third to complete a $2 trifecta worth $3,080.

Everydayissaturday, Board Elligble, Chowder's First, Will's Journey, Work With Me, Seven Come Eleven, Traffic Chief, Rogue Agent, Levendis, Sherpa Guide and Citizenship completed the order of finish.

Spite the Devil covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50 1/5 over the fast track and paid $32, $11.40 and $9.10. West Virginia returned $3.70 and $3.10, and Mr. Determined paid $14.60 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)