Donegal Racing's Donegal Moon, fourth in the LARC Sir Barton Stakes in his last start, broke through for his first graded stakes victory in the $100,000 Betfair.com Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds June 19 at Monmouth Park.
Ridden by Joe Bravo for trainer Todd Pletcher, Donegal Moon was reserved early, split horses in the stretch, and pulled away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over last-out claim Extinct Charm, who finished a neck in front of Awesome Slew. Heavily favored Unified , undefeated in three starts with wins in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) and Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III), came under a ride from Jose Ortiz on the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus but failed to hit the board.
Donegal Moon, a colt by Malibu Moon out of the Giant's Causeway mare Perfect Cause, won for the third time in 11 starts. He broke his maiden at Keeneland last fall, and in early March easily won a first-level allowance test at Parx Racing; after that race he finished eighth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
The pace in the Pegasus was set by Parx allowance winner Saratoga Jack, who set fractions of :23.70 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.63 for a half-mile, and 1:11.78 for six furlongs with Abiding Star in close pursuit. Awesome Slew, who saved ground, and Unified made their moves on the far turn, but it was Awesome Slew who grabbed the advantage as the favorite began to fall back.
Awesome Slew had a short lead in the lane but Donegal Moon took over before one mile in 1:37.61 and fought off the late rally of Extinct Charm, the winner of a New York-bred stakes who was claimed for $80,000 at Belmont Park in May.
Donegal Moon finished up in 1:44.15 on a track rated fast. He paid $15, $7.20, and $9.60 across the board as the second choice; a minus show pool on 1-5 favorite Unified created higher show payoffs.
Donegal Moon, bred in Kentucky by Patchen Wilkes Farm, was a $220,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The victory capped off a big weekend for Bravo, who on June 18 won the $100,000 Don LeVine Memorial Stakes at Parx with Green Lantern Racing's homebred A.P. Indian, and traveled to Kentucky that evening to win the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) with Joseph Sutton's Bradester .
"It's so fun to ride for Team Pletcher," Bravo said after the Pegasus. "Todd texted me earlier and the instructions worked out perfectly. There was so much early speed in the race and the race set up great for us. In the stretch, he really came running strongly. This was a fun two days."
Ortiz and Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Unified for Centennial Farms, had no immediate excuses for the Candy Ride colt's effort. It was his first start around two turns; the Peter Pan was 1 1/8 miles but around one turn at Belmont.
"He broke really well from the gate and he was going good for the first half mile," Ortiz said. "I asked him to go around the three-eighths pole and just didn't have it today."
"He seemed like he was in a good position and backed up around the three-eighths pole," Jerkens said.
The Pegasus is a local prep for the $1 million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational (gr. I) July 31 at Monmouth.