In the one-mile test for 3-year-old New York-breds, the son of The Factor took the lead early and was kept to task by jockey Dylan Davis to win by three lengths over a sloppy, sealed track.
"He was on the lead his last two races, and coming in we thought he might be able to do the same thing today," said winning trainer Jeremiah Englehart. "Dylan did a really nice job with him. Sometimes he tends to start a bit sluggish, but he got out of there OK and really handled the track, which was also a concern."
Nine Route bumped Empire Line at the start, but assumed the lead as Gio d'Oro raced in second, just outside the leader. Nine Route raced cut fractions of :23.91, :48.20, and 1:14.04 through six furlongs and put 1 1/2 lengths between himself and the competition. Empire Line and jockey Manny Franco attempted to move up between rivals through the turn but didn't have enough to pull it off. Nine Route extended his lead in the stretch and kicked away to win in 1:41.25.
Gio d'Oro secured second by a half-length over Empire Line. Engineers Report finished last in the field of four.
"He was coming off a sprint and we just wanted to come out comfortable," said Davis, who had six wins on the day's card. "When he went up in front, I tried to get an easy pace and get him to relax as much as I could. He broke a step slow and I got a little worried, but once he got into stride, he took control and I got him to relax. He geared down and knew what he had to do turning for home. He handled (the sloppy track) better than the others and just got the job done."
Nine Route started his career with trainer Bill Mott and finished sixth in his debut on the Belmont Park turf last July. The colt reappeared in December to break his maiden by 6 1/2 lengths going 5 1/2 furlongs on the Aqueduct dirt. He entered the Gander off a 1 1/4-length win in six-furlong optional-claiming allowance Jan. 18.
"He's now three-for-three for us and he's pleasantly surprised me every time," Englehardt said. "In his first start for us. I wasn't sure he would be able to handle the dirt and he did that. (In the) second start I was worried about allowance company and he passed that test, and today we had some questions if he would handle a route distance and he did it pretty impressive. We'll enjoy this win for the next 24 hours and then decide where to go from there."
Bred by McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbred in New York, Nine Route is out of the winning Sky Mesa mare Flash Act. He was a $190,000 weanling purchase by Lane's End at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November sale, and was then pinhooked to the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale, where he was picked up by August Dawn Farm for $290,000.
With three wins from four starts, Nine Route has accumulated earnings of $127,448.
It was the first stakes win and the third consecutive score for the 5-year-old Jump Start mare, who is owned by Iris Smith Stable, Lady Sheila Stable, and trainer Linda Rice.
"When we started with her, she broke her maiden on the dirt, but her mother had made around $350,000 on the grass, so we switched her to the turf, and there were just more opportunities for her there," Rice said. "Last winter I decided to give her a break and freshen her up, and this winter I thought to try her on the dirt and give her another chance. We've been delighted with her last performances and I thought this race was pretty darn competitive."
With jockey Junior Alvarado up, Startwithsilver raced last in the six-horse field, as Sandy Belle set fractions of :22.77 and :46.88 for a half-mile in the six-furlong contest for New York-bred fillies and mares. Coming out of the turn, Startwithsilver moved wide and circled the field in the stretch. She continued to draw away from her competition and completed the distance in 1:11.44.
Bred by Burning Sands Stable in New York, Startwithsilver is out of the stakes-winning Silver Ghost mare Office Miss. She was a $180,000 purchase by Rice at the 2015 Ocala Breeders' Sales April sale of 2-year-olds in training. From 15 starts, she has a record of 5-4-2 and earnings of $273,559.