Stretching out to 1 1/2 miles for the first time, Preston Stables’ Birdrun went wire-to-wire to win the $150,000 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) June 10 at Belmont Park.
It was the first graded stakes win for the Florida-bred son of Birdstone. The 5-year-old horse earned trainer Bill Mott a graded stakes double on Friday afternoon, as he took the Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) one race earlier with Courageous Cat.
Birdrun, bred by the late Arthur I. Appleton, covered the 12 furlongs on the fast main track in 2:28.24 in his 3 3/4-length triumph. Last year’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Drosselmeyer, also trained by Mott, settled for second in a field of five, with Alma d'Oro hitting third.
The was never any question about Birdrun’s strategy in the Brooklyn, as he went straight to the front under Rajiv Maragh, setting fractions of :24.81, :49.71, :1:13.88, and 1:38.21 for a mile. The order did not change much through a mile, with Drosselmeyer stalking in second, 2009 Brooklyn winner Eldaafer and Alma d’Oro racing in the next group, and a struggling Afleet Again well back in last.
When they reached the quarter-pole both Drosselmeyer and Alma d’Oro came up to challenge the longtime leader, but once they hit the top of the lane Birdrun found more and maintained his lead with a furlong remaining. He opened up the advantage in upper stretch and went on to the convincing victory.
Birdrun was beaten a neck by Drosselmeyer May 15 in the One Count Stakes at Belmont going 1 1/4 miles and was off-the-board in two earlier starts this season. He bagged his only other black-type win last November at Calder Race Course when he won the state-restricted Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap. In 2008, he set the Belmont 1 1/16-mile main track record when he won an allowance race by 8 1/4 lengths in 1:39.38.
“(Drosselmeyer) only beat us a neck the last time and the race today kind of played in my favor," Maragh said. "It all worked out well; my horse ran hard all the way, and he came home victorious. This field was bred to go a mile and a half.”
With the win, Birdrun improved to 6-6-1 from 19 starts and earnings of $372,944. He is out of the Jolie's Halo mare Run Like Martha.
“Big day. Big day," Mott said. "We thought he'd be on the lead. Last time, he was on the lead at a mile and a quarter. Drosselmeyer rolled up at the quarter pole, but didn't fire his best shot today. Both horses deserved to run today. Birdrun broke his maiden for $35,000 at Saratoga. We're lucky we didn't lose him."
Birdrun paid $7.30, $3.10, and $2.50. The exacta (4-2) returned $16.60, and the trifecta (4-2-5) was worth $46.20. Eldaafer finished fourth, followed by Afleet Again.