Alto Racing’s 2-1 favorite Anchor Down zipped along on the front end and went gate to wire for an impressive two-length victory in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II), just missing the track record for the one-turn mile at Belmont Park.
The 5-year-old Tapit ridgling trained by Todd Pletcher, who came into the $350,000 race off an uneventful sixth in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, was quick out of the gate under Javier Castellano, closely tracked by Tamarkuz and Mike Smith.
Leading the five-horse field shortened by the scratches of Upstart and Baccelo, those two set the pace in fractions of :23.30 and :45.74. After stopping the timer in 1:09.05 for six furlongs, Anchor Down continued to roll, with Tamarkuz still about a length back. Castellano let out the leader down the lane as he raced uncontested to victory in the final time of 1:32.90, just off the track mark of 1:32.24.
The victory was the fifth in 15 starts for Anchor Down, who improved his earnings to $719,254.
He returned $6, $3.70, and $2.70 across the board. Tamarkuz was worth $3.80 and $2.50, with Ocean Knight third at $3.70. They were followed by Point Piper, a West Coast shipper for Jerry Hollendorfer, and second choice Tommy Macho, also trained by Pletcher.
"He's run well every time in a one-turn mile at Belmont, it seems to be his thing," Pletcher said. "It was no disgrace being second to Frosted in the Met Mile that day; I don't think anyone was going to beat Frosted. To come back and run a mile in 1:32 and four-fifths, as a well-bred son of Tapit, it's a big win for him."
Considering the winner’s affinity for one-turn mile races, Pletcher said Anchor Down likely would make his next start in the Nov. 26 Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack rather than contest the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) around two turns at Santa Anita Park.
"We'll wait and see how he comes out of it. I would probably think a one-turn mile is a little more to his liking. We'll enjoy this one for the moment, but if I were guessing right now I'd probably lean toward the Cigar Mile."
"My main concern was focusing on breaking good out of the gate because this horse has had a couple of issues out the gate," Castellano said. "He got a good clean trip and a good break so using my best judgment I put him on the lead. He's a great horse. He's a pro and he showed up today."
Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Anchor Down was bought by agent Steve Young for $250,000 from his breeder at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Unraced at 2, Anchor Down won both of his two starts at age 3, but then was off for more than a year. Anchor Down posted his first stakes win when he rolled to a 6 3/4-length victory in the Westchester Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont May 7.