After his first blemish when fourth last time out in the Hopeful Stakes (G1), Sanford Stakes (G3) winner Firenze Fire wasted no time in bouncing back and used a rail rally in the turn on his way to a half-length victory in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) Oct. 7 at Belmont Park.
The Mr. Amore Stable homebred posted a clear victory in the July 22 Sanford at Saratoga Race Course at six furlongs but then finished fourth in the seven-furlong Hopeful Sept. 4 at Saratoga, where he weakened late. But the one-mile distance of the Champagne would prove no problem for the Florida-bred son of Poseidon's Warrior , as he rated early before he made up ground in the turn under Irad Ortiz Jr.
Early in the race favored Aveenu Malcainu seized a contested lead through a quarter-mile in :22.90. In the turn Aveenu Malcainu continued to lead through a half-mile in :45.94, but he was pressed by both Honorable Treasure and Hazit.
The race changed in early stretch, when maiden Good Magic struck first to seize the lead. But Firenze Fire, who had floated into a clear path off the turn, rallied past that rival and continued well to the wire to complete one mile in 1:35.91 over the fast main track.
"He always breaks good, but we've been working with him to drop in, take some kickback, get some dirt, and finish," Ortiz said. "He was working great.
"He broke in front, but I took him back, like the way we've been working him, and it worked out perfect for us. When I asked him, he exploded. He responded very good. Past the three-eighths pole, I still had some horse and he hadn't moved yet. He's been working good, so I knew when I asked him, he was going to be there for me."
Trained by Jason Servis and that conditioner's first grade 1 winner, Firenze Fire paid $24, $9.80, and $5.60 across the board, while Good Magic returned $6 to place and $4.30 to show. Enticed rallied for third and paid $4.70 to show, edging fourth-place Kowboy Karma.
Trainer Chad Brown was pleased with e Five Race Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables' Good Magic.
"I thought he ran very well especially for a maiden," he said. "It's the first time he's seen dirt in his face. (He is) probably going to learn a lot from that. He just ran second-best again. I thought we had a big shot. That horse came and got us. We were well clear of third, so it says something about how well both first- and second-place finishers ran."
Already the first stakes winner for his freshman sire, Firenze Fire became the first grade 1 winner for Poseidon's Warrior, who stood the 2017 season for $6,500 at Pleasant Acres Farm near Morriston, Fla.
The Champagne is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race, for the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar. The Champagne also is a race on the 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby, and awarded 10 points to the winner, four points to the runner-up, two points to the third-place finisher, and one point to the fourth-place finisher.
Servis said Firenze Fire was not at his best in the Hopeful, but came into the Champagne in better shape.
"He wasn't right that day. He had a virus or something going on," Servis said. "He was flat. The week before the race the horse was coughing, but sometimes you've got to run them. Everything's there. It's in the moment. You run them and you move on."