Centennial Farms' King Cugat launched a powerful closing run at the top of the stretch to catch pacesetter Mandarin Marsh at the wire, winning the $200,000 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT) by a nose Sunday at Belmont Park. Under Jerry Bailey, the Bill Mott-trained King Cugat completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.63 on firm turf.
With the temporary rail set out 18 feet on Belmont's inner turf course, Mandarin Marsh set a dawdling early pace. Under Richard Migliore, the David Donk-trained son of Sea Hero completed the opening quarter-mile in :25.91, prompting Bailey to move King Cugat up from the back of the pack on the backstretch. Mandarin Marsh continued to plod along, running a half-mile in :51.82 under only slight pressure from Parade Leader. The pace quickened into the second turn as Mandarin Marsh continued to lead into the stretch, opened up on Parade Leader, and dug in gamely when challenged by King Cugat. As they crossed the wire, 53-1 longshot Mandarin Marsh lost the head bob to the odds-on favorite.
"That son of a gun (Mandarin Marsh) kept digging in," said Mott. "It looked like we had him at the three-sixteenth pole, but at the sixteenth-pole, he kept digging in."
Parade Leader finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Mandarin Marsh. Union One was fourth, followed by Polish Miner, Whata Brainstorm, Aldo, and Jay's Crown.
King Cugat (Kingmambo--Tricky Game, by Majestic Light) was bred in Kentucky by Dinwiddie Farm and earned his sixth win from nine starts in the Jamaica. The 3-year-old earned $120,000 for the victory. King Cugat's victories include the Arlington Classic (gr. IIT) and the Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT).
"If we keep going, it looks like we might go in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT)," said Mott of the winner, who paid $2.90, $2.50 and $2.10. Mandarin Marsh returned $20.80 and $2.10 and completed a $49.60 exacta. Parade Leader was worth $2.10 to show. (Chart, Equibase