Golden Commander swung to the outside for room in the upper stretch and closed steadily in the final sixteenth of a mile to win the $114,700 West Point Handicap for New York breds on turf at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday.
Golden Commander overcame early traffic problems to launch his move along the rail at the quarter pole. He surged past Irish Colonial to take the lead and withstood a late charge from Foreverness to win by a half-length.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Golden Commander ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:48 4/5 on a grass course listed as "good," returning $10, $4.30 and $2.80. He was coupled in the wagering with Provincetown, who finished fourth in the field of 12 3-year-olds and up.
"He broke slow from the gate," Castellano said. "I'm glad we were fortunate to get the trip we did. I took my chances on going to the inside because I wanted to save ground as much as I could. I had enough horse to move with Irish Colony who I thought was the horse that I had to beat in the race. When the rail opened, I had to hit him a couple of times, but he kicked in and we got through. It was a good race for him."
Foreverness, the 5-2 favorite with Jerry Bailey aboard, rallied on the inside to finish second, paying $3.80 and $2.60. Irish Colonial, who took the lead at the top of the stretch before yielding in the final strides, was a head back in third, paying $3.
Golden Commander registered his first stakes victory and his fourth win in 10 starts on turf. The gelding, trained by Phil Serpe, earned $68,820 for Flying Zee Stables.
"He struggled with this kind of turf, but he's just at his best right now," Serpe said. "I was confident with all my fingers crossed.
"He's a hard horse to ride. He takes very strong handling. You can't let him take the trip for you."
Golden Commander, a 4-year-old bay gelding by Deputy Commander
, is now 4-3-2 from 15 starts with earnings of $195,770.