ELMONT, N.Y. – Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino’s Obviously left no room for doubt on Saturday at Belmont Park, returning from a four-month break between races to lead gate-to-wire and score his first victory of the year in the Grade 3, $300,000 Poker on the turf.
Entering his 8-year-old season as a seven-time graded stakes winner, the Irish-bred gelding started 2016 with a pair of close seconds against Grade 2 company at Santa Anita before shipping east from trainer Phil D’Amato’s southern California base. Obviously, ridden for the first time by Jose Lezcano, took his characteristic position at the head of the pack on the Widener course and led uncontested through a 23.07-second quarter-mile and a half in 45.96.
Obviously’s dominance remained unquestioned as the pair turned for home, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 3 ¾ lengths ahead of Force the Pass, in his first local start since winning last year’s Grade 1 Belmont Derby.
Obviously officially completed the one-turn mile on the firm turf course in 1:31.65, just .02 seconds off Elusive Quality’s course record set in 1998.
“The horse is a freak” Lezcano said. “He’s something else. He broke well and went out with no trouble. The second-quarter I had to get him relaxed. He started to jump at the bit, but heading for home he did it easy and got going again. Looking at the splits, he just kept going faster and faster. I think he’s a very nice horse.”
Favored at 2-1 in the six-horse field, Obviously returned $6.60 for a $2 win wager.
Obviously, by the Australian sire Choisir, improved his career record to 12-6-3 from 26 starts and boosted his lifetime earnings to $1,747,751.
“He’s coming into his own,” said Chris Davis, assistant trainer to D’Amato. “He’s sound, he’s happy, he’s fit. He seems like he’s starting to relax better. He really is just maturing. He’s one of those horses that you don’t want to run every two or three weeks, you’ve got to hand pick the best races for him, but he’s really doing well. We couldn’t be happier with him.”
Offering Plan, Takeover Target, King Kreesa and Grand Arch completed the order of finish.