Turf Experiment an Affirmed Success

Affirmed Success, racing on turf for the first time Tuesday in anticipation of a possible start in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I), tracked pacesetter Strategic Mission while racing in second place and drew off through the stretch run to win the $113,800 Poker Handicap (gr. IIIT) by 1 3/4 lengths. The six-year-old gelding completed the mile race in 1:34.06 over an outer Belmont Park turf course listed as good.

"The plan wasn't to be on the lead," said winning jockey Jorge Chavez. "I saw Strategic Mission go out there and I knew he was going fast. At the 1/2-mile pole, that horse started to slow down, and that's when I made my move for the lead. Once we got in front, he just kept going. He really loved the turf."

Rabi finished second, a 1/2 length clear of Weatherbird. Musical Ghost came home fourth, followed by Watchman's Warning, Strategic Mission, French Envoy, Western Expression, and Kettle Won.

Divide and Conquer, a 6-year-old son of Danzig, broke down on the turn and was euthanized on the track. Chief examining veterinarian Dr. Neil A. Cleary said the horse suffered a compound fracture to his right-front leg. John Velazquez, Divide and Conquer's jockey, was well enough after the spill to ride his remaining mounts on the card.

Affirmed Success (Affirmed--Towering Success, by Irish Tower) is an Albert Fried homebred trained by Richard Schosberg. His victories include the Vosburgh (gr. I) and the Cigar Mile (gr. I). He kicked off his 2000 campaign with a win in the seven-furlong General George Handicap (gr. II) before finishing third--beaten by a 1/2 length while blocked in the stretch--in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct in May. The Poker win is his 10th in 22 starts.

Sent off as the favorite, Affirmed Success returned $4.90, $3.60, and $2.80. The exacta paid $42.80. (Chart, Equibase)