Odds-on favorite Jackson Bend, the third-place finisher of the Preakness (gr. I), tired badly after turning for home, as second choice Afleet Express swept to the lead and sailed to a 1 3/4-length win in the $200,000 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) in the June 19 feature at Monmouth Park.
Gainesway Farm and Martin Cherry’s Afleet Express won in his stakes debut. Ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Afleet Alex covered 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt in 1:45.44. Jackson Bend finished fifth in a field of six 3-year-olds, out finishing only fellow Preakness starter Schoolyard Dreams, who was another 11 1/4 lengths back in last.
Jackson Bend and Schoolyard Dreams were heads apart through most of the early going, with Schoolyard Dreams holding a slight advantage under Eibar Coa. They ran the opening quarter-mile in :24.85 and a half-mile in :49.35. Jackson Bend took over as they rounded the far turn (six furlongs went in 1:13.48), but despite the pedestrian fractions, began to fall back when hitting the top of the stretch.
Afleet Express, tracking in third the whole way, pounced on the two leaders from a three-wide path and took a half-length advantage at the eighth-pole. He had plenty left in the final furlong to hold off his closest pursuers, Afleet Again and Soaring Empire, who finished second and third, respectively. Nacho Friend was fourth.
“When I saw two horses going head-to-head for the lead, I decided to take him back a little and cover up around the first turn,” said Castellano. “He relaxed very well and when I called on him for run he gave it to me.”
The winner, an earner of $185,140 from five starts, was bred in Kentucky by McMillan Brothers and James Devaney. He is out of the Distant View mare Expanse.
The dark bay/brown colt entered the Pegasus off a 7 3/4-length romp in a May 22 allowance race at Belmont, which was his first win in three starts in 2010. He broke his maiden in his debut last winter at Aqueduct.
“We have to hugely consider the Haskell (gr. I, Aug. 1 at Monmouth),” Jerkens said. “He handled everything well today.”
Jose Lezcano rode Jackson Bend for the first time and said: “He did everything so easily until the three-eighths pole and then didn’t have anything left in the lane.”
Afleet Express paid $6, $4, and $4.20. The exacta (6-5) returned $34.60 and the trifecta (6-4-5) was $81.30 for $1.
The Pegasus, a mainstay at the Meadowlands for decades, was being run for the second time at Monmouth Park.