Claiborne Farm's homebred Wend captured her fifth straight win while making her graded stakes debut, holding off the hard-closing Wonder Again by a neck in the $250,000 New York Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the Belmont Park inner turf course Saturday.
Film Maker finished third, another long neck behind, after falling well behind the pack in the six-horse field on the far turn.
Wonder Again won the New York by 3 1/4 lengths last year and was made the 7-5 favorite.
The Bill Mott-conditioned Wend, who won her previous four starts by a combined 19 1/4 lengths, was ridden to victory by Jerry Bailey, who won the New York for the fifth time. The final time for the 1 1/4-mile event was 2:02 1/5 on firm going.
In an oddly-run race, Wend, expected to be on the lead, was taken back as early pacesetter Muguet and Riskaverse took the field along in crawling fractions of :26, :52 and 1:16. Riskaverse, ridden by Javier Castellano, took over on the turn but Bailey could hold Wend no longer and she soon challenged on the outside. The two battled through the lane before Wend began to pull away in mid-stretch.
The always-tough Wonder Again, ridden by Edgar Prado, drove home on the outside after stalking the leaders throughout but ran out of room. Film Maker, with John Velazquez aboard, appeared to be finished on the far turn but rallied late and was coming best of all at the end to finish third. Riskaverse held on for fourth.
Wend, who was making her first start at the 10-furlong distance, was coming off a 5 1/2-length win in the Hollywood Wildcat Breeders' Cup Handicap at Calder April 30, her first stakes race.
The 4-year-old daughter of Pulpit
-Thread (Topsider) is undefeated on the turf. She had not been beaten since her debut start on a sloppy Aqueduct main track in November when she was seventh. She now boasts five wins in six tries.
Wend more than doubled her career earnings to $289,350 Saturday.
The second choice of the public, Wend paid $5.70, $3.30 and $2.20. The 6-year-old Wonder Again, who was making her second start this season, returned $2.80 and $2.10. Film Maker, who was coming off a neck victory in the Galorette Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Pimlico May 21, was $2.10 to show.