Well Fancied Repeats in Belmont Fall Opener

(from Belmont report)
Sanford Goldfarb and Stewart Hoffman's Well Fancied became the first back-to-back winner of the General Douglas MacArtur Handicap, powering to a 5 ½-length victory Friday afternoon in the seven-furlong race for New York breds that opens the 38-day Belmont Park Fall Championship Meet.

The race, worth $109,600, became a laugher when Well Fancied and jockey Edgar Prado allowed longshot Gratiaen to set a strong lonely pace of :22 3/5; :45 1/5 and 1:09 2/5, while rating in second. On queue, Well Fancied collared the leader in the streetch and drew off for an easy win in 1:21 2/5.

A 5-year-old gelded son of Prosper Fager, Well Fancied joins Stalwart Member (1997, 1999) and Say Florida Sandy (1998, 2000) as the only two-time winners of this race. It was his ninth win from 25 career starts, and pushed his earnings to nearly $480,000.

"I kind of liked it when the other horse (Gratiaen) went in front of him," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. "This horse is better when he has a target. He could still go to the front, if he had to. He's a racehorse, what are you going to do? We didn't want to run him in a money allowance at Saratoga, so we decided to wait, just like we did last year. We ran him three or four times really quick, so he deserved a little break."

Well Fancied carried high weight of 123 pounds, and spotted his rivals from six to 11 pounds. Still, he was the prohibitive post-time favorite of the opening day crowd of 5,474, and he rewarded their faith with a $2.80, $2.30 and $2.10 payoff.

"I knew Gratiaen would go; he was the speed," Prado said. "My horse had the class and class kills speed. I'm happy with his performance. It was a good time (1:21 2/5) for a horse carrying 123 pounds. He was just better than these."

Gratiaen ($7.30, $2.10) lasted for second, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Spite the Devil ($2.10), making his first start on Lasix as the public's second choice. Mr. Determined, Vodka, Sherpa Guide, Beyond Chance and As Wicked completed the order of finish.

(Chart, Equibase)