Favored Ocean Drive, ridden by John Velazquez, made a sweeping move around the leaders to seize the lead and draw away to win the $150,000 Noble Damsel Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park Saturday, her fourth grade III victory in 2004.
After gaining the lead from pacesetting Hour of Justice in mid-stretch of the one-mile grass event for fillies and mares, the stalking Ocean Drive won by 1 1/4 lengths under moderate urging in a time of 1:34 3/5. The Brazilian-bred High Court, ridden by Richard Migliore, emerged from the pack late to gain second by three-quarters of a length over Hour of Justice, the Frank Stronach-owned Woodbine invader who was looking for her fourth consecutive win.
Velazquez won his fourth race of the day.
Hour of Justice, ridden by Todd Kabel, led Finery through a contested pace of :24 1/5 and :47 3/5.
Ocean Drive, breaking from the extreme outside of the nine-horse field in the one-turn mile, came away well but was taken back while remaining on the outside. On the turn, the 4-year-old Belong to Me
filly edged up on the outside of the leaders, who were joined by Dedication. The quartet hit the stretch spread out across the course, but only Ocean Drive and Hour of Justice went on with it.
"The horse to beat (Hour of Justice) was inside," Velazquez said. "I had my eye on her because I thought she was the one that could beat me. We were outside. I just wanted to keep her comfortable. I didn't want to move too soon. As soon as we came off the turn, I spanked her and said `Let's go.' She was doing it easy, so I wasn't concerned about the wide trip."
Enjoying a banner year for trainer Todd Pletcher and Ocean Drive, winner of the Aug. 30 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) in her last start at Saratoga, has now won four grade IIIs in her last six starts. She has a perfect in-the-money record of 4-3-2 in nine starts in 2004 while banking $483,900.
"She ran huge today," said Pletcher. "She was carrying top weight (120 pounds) and the outside post can be tough going a mile on the turf here. She's just so good right now that she was able to overcome those things. I think that a mile to a mile and a sixteenth are her best distances."
Owned by Sy and Bonnie Baskin, Ocean Drive, out of the Clever Trick mare Clever But Costly, has won nine of 19 in her career with earnings of $781,986.
A $160,000 Keeneland yearling sale in 2001, she was bred in Kentucky by James D. Conway and Thomas C. Mueller.
Ocean Drive, the slight 5-2 choice over Hour of Justice, paid $7.50, $4.80 and $2.60. High Court returned $17.60 and $6. Hour of Justice's show was $2.80. The exacta was worth $117.
Changing World was fourth, followed by Finery, Yell, Personal Legend, Dedication and Coney Kitty.
In the $111,700 Ashley T. Cole Handicap for New York-bred horses, Provincetown won by 1 3/4 lengths.
Provincetown carried 115 pounds and Tony Farina 1 1/8 miles in 1:46 2/5 over the firm turf to earn $69,340 for Flying Zee Stables.
A 4-year-old Crimson Guard gelding, Provincetown ended a four-race losing streak by hustling to the lead and setting fractions of :23 1/5; :47 3/5; 1:11 1/5 and 1:35 1/5 the inner course, where the rail was set at nine feet. He wore blinkers for the first time in two years.
Provincetown, who raced coupled as an entry with Golden Commander, returned $5.70, $3.50 and $2.50. Certifiably Crazy paid $12.00 and $5.40, and Irish Colonial returned $3.10.