Trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano teamed up Oct. 21 at Belmont Park for back-to-back wins on Empire Showcase Day, a card that included eight New York stakes races worth a total of $1.75 million in purses.
After Peter Brant's Fifty Five got the duo off to a sharp start with a victory in the $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes, Brown and Castellano found themselves back in the familiar winner's circle a race later with Twisted Tom after the day's richest contest, the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap.
Twisted Tom earned his third straight win, all in state-bred company, after chasing the pace set by Control Group. The duo battled through fractions of :24.73, :48.08, and 1:12:37 before Twisted Tom took over in the stretch. He stopped the clock in 1:49.38 after 1 1/8 miles over the main track. Sent off as the even-money favorite, he returned $4.10, $3.20, and $2.60. Control Group held second.
"The horse has a high cruising speed and the (other) horses weren't going that fast," Brown said. "I loved Javier's decision early, to just put him right in the race and just get him in a nice rhythm there down the backside. It looked like he had that other horse measured. I am just extremely pleased with his effort. He has been training well. He has had a really great season for us, so I am inclined to rest him now for next year."
Before the Empire Classic, Twisted Tom won the New York Derby and Albany Stakes this summer for Cobra Farm, R R Partners, and Head of Plains Partners. He boasts an overall record of seven wins from 10 starts for lifetime earnings of $680,131.
The Ticonderoga win was the fourth of Fifty Five's career, her first since the March 11 Florida Oaks (G3T), and her first since she was transferred to Brown from Tom Bush in the spring. The Get Stormy filly employed her usual off-the-pace style to win by a length over Flipcup, covering 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf in 1:41.65. Favored at 5-2 she returned $7.10, $4, and $2.90.
Trainer Charlton Baker also had a pair of stakes wins as Newman Racing's Absatootly surged from the rail to overtake 6-5 favorite Quezon in the final furlong to win the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes, and Verdant Pastures proved uncatchable in the $250,000 Empire Distaff to close out the day's stakes action.
In the 6 1/2-furlong Iroquois, 4-year-old Absatootly and jockey Joe Bravo outkicked Quezon by a half-length in 1:16.04 over the fast track. The 4-year-old Mineshaft filly paid $24.20, $7.70, and $4.50.
Francis Paolangeli's homebred Verdant Pastures earned her first stakes win in the Empire Distaff, wiring the field under jockey Manuel Franco through fractions :22.94, :46.09, and 1:10.72 while being hounded by 41-1 longshot Might Be. The 3-year-old Colonel John filly completed 1 1/16 miles over the main track in 1:43.65. She returned $8.10, $5.30, and $4.
Kicking off the day's stakes action was Berning Rose, bred and owned by Robert Rosenthal and Brad Bernstein, who captured her first stakes victory by 1 1/2 lengths in the $250,000 Maid of the Mist, besting a field of seven other 2-year-old fillies. Berning Rose fired fast out of the gate before jockey Kendrick Carmouche dropped her into a stalking position outside Newport Breeze and I Still Miss You. She pulled away off the turn and finished clear of runner-up Held Accountable.
Berning Rose stopped the clock for one mile on the fast track in 1:37.76. The daughter of Freud paid $16.80, $6.50, and $4.50. It was the third start for Berning Rose, who broke her maiden with a five-length score Aug. 30 at Saratoga Race Course, and followed it up with a second in the $150,000 Joseph A. Gimma at Belmont Sept. 20.
R and H Stable's Evaluator capitalized on the class relief after running seventh in consecutive grade 3 races, to win his first stakes over fellow 2-year-olds in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes at 19-1.
Evaluator overtook Big Gemmy from the outside and hung on by a nose in the final jumps. He completed one mile on the main track in 1:38.38. Trained by Michael Dilger, Evaluator won for the first time since his Aug. 9 debut.
Ridden by Franco, Evaluator paid $40.20, $15.80, and $8.40. The Overanalyze colt raised his earnings to $195,634.
"Dilger told me to break out of there and let him be comfortable, because he doesn't have speed early on," Franco said. "I put my head down and tried to follow a target and get a space to go, and it worked out well."
David Jacobson's Ostrolenka took advantage of a slow pace to take home the $150,000 Hudson Stakes, besting frontrunner Eye Love Lulu by a neck after a stretch duel. Bravo put Ostrolenka in a stalking position behind Eye Love Lulu through fractions of :22.82 and :46.16 for the half, before angling the son of Musket Man to the outside in the stretch. He completed six and a half furlong in 1:16.75. The five-year-old paid $11.60, $6.10, and $3.50.
Ivery Sisters Racing's Black Tide took a field of six gate-to-wire to win the $200,000 Mohawk Stakes in 1:40.98 for 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf for trainer David Cannizzo.