The rail was dead earlier during the July 9 card at Belmont Park, but that didn't stop jockey Joe Bravo from taking the inside path to victory aboard Green Lantern Stables' homebred A. P. Indian in the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. III).
In the final race at the New York oval on Stars and Stripes Day, Bravo kept the 6-year-old Indian Charlie gelding a close fourth along the rail behind the pace set by defending winner Private Zone, then punched through a gap on the inside after the field turned for home in the seven-furlong event.
A. P. Indian, an Arnaud Delacour trainee, made it three wins in a row and picked up his first graded score after polishing off back-to-back victories in the June 18 Donald LeVine Memorial Stakes at Parx Racing and the May 14 Decathalon Stakes at Monmouth Park. It was a big day for Delacour, who about 30 minutes later won the Delaware Oaks (gr. III) at Delaware Park with WinStar's Dark Nile.
"Obviously, it was a huge performance," Delacour said of A. P. Indian's win. "We thought about coming to run in this race last year, but he ran into some minor issues and we couldn't make the race. He's come back very well this year. I usually leave the options open to the rider, and Joe did a great job keeping him covered up and he extended away in the stretch.
"Going forward I'll definitely take a look at the races at Saratoga and we'll keep our options open, but we'll first see how he comes back form this race."
Private Zone, making his season debut after getting scratched from the June 10 True North (gr. II) because of trainer Brian Lynch's positive marijuana test, broke well and set opening fractions of :22.66 and :45.33 through a half-mile. He fought back as 5-2 second choice Marking made a run at him around the final turn, but the challenger faded down the lane. Marking put away the frontrunner with am outside move, but A. P. Indian was already sneaking away to victory by a head after his rail-skimming run.
The final time was 1:21.41 on a fast track.
"Horses like this make our job so easy," Bravo said. "He breaks from the gate with control, relaxes, turns off, and breathes underneath me so comfortably, that all you have to know is when to pull the trigger. He really opened up beautifully turning for home and made me look good."
A. P. Indian returned $13.80, $5.50, and $3.40 at odds of 5-1. Marking brought $4.10 and $2.70, and Ready for Rye paid $2.70. Private Zone finished fourth, followed home by Green Gratto, Nubin Ridge, and Roxbury N Overton. Anchor Down and Joking scratched.
A. P. Indian was bred in Kentucky out of the A. P. Indy mare Ender's Sister, and improved his record to eight wins and four seconds from 14 starts for earnings of $527,434.