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ELMONT, NY – Crown’s Way Racing’s Smokin’ Jay, expertly piloted by Luis Saez, collared Momos in the final jumps to capture Friday’s $100,000 Allied Forces, a 6-furlong Widener turf sprint for sophomores at Belmont Park.
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The victory provided a first stakes win for the owner and trainer Kelsey Danner, who was in Kentucky following the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“He ran a huge race and it’s very cool that it happened at Belmont,” Danner said. “It’s the first stakes win for me and the ownership group, so we both broke our maidens today. Luis deserves all the credit for a great ride. Without Luis, he may not have gotten there.”
Arzak, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, stumbled at the start as Momos was sent to the lead by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to mark the opening 1/4-mile in 22.09 seconds on the firm turf.
Jaxon Traveler, the 2/1 mutuel favorite under Jose Ortiz, tracked from outside in second position with Ranger Fox saving ground in third and Smokin’ Jay pushing up between rivals in fourth as the 1/2-mile was clocked in 45.07.
Jaxon Traveler made the lead at the stretch call, but a resurgent Momos battled back as Smokin’ Jay angled into the middle of the track and took aim at the pacesetters with Arzak attempting to rallying wide into contention.
Momos outdueled Jaxon Traveler but Saez kept to task aboard Smokin’ Jay, who got up in the final stride to secure a head win in a final time of 1:09.14. Momos completed the exacta by 3/4 of a length over Jaxon Traveler.
Saez, who guided Smokin’ Jay to an off-the-board finish in the Palisades Turf Sprint at Keeneland in April, said he was pleased with the effort.
“He’s always trying. Today, he was in a perfect spot,” Saez said. “He came to the top of the stretch and he was a little green. Finally, we got the jump and he won the race nicely. I was very happy with the way he ran.”
The versatile Smokin’ Jay won a 5 1/2-furlong optional-claiming sprint on the Arlington Park synthetic in April and added a narrow neck score in a 5-furlong optional-claiming turf sprint in June at Delaware.
The improving Cairo Prince grey made his last 2 starts in stakes company, finishing a close fifth in the 5 1/2-furlong My Frenchman on July 11 over yielding turf at Monmouth Park ahead of a nose loss to Arzak in the 6-furlong Tom Ridge on the Presque Isle Downs synthetic on August 2.
Anthony Rallo Jr., owner of Crown’s Way Racing, said Smokin’ Jay has proven he belongs in stakes company and is likely to make his next start in the $100,000 Carle Place, a 7-furlong turf sprint for sophomores here on October 22.
“He had run against Arzak and Momos in the past. We fit right in there with the 3-year-old turf sprinters this year,” Rallo Jr. said. “There’s a race here next month that I think makes a lot of sense.”
Velazquez said the sustained duel with Jaxon Traveler may have cost Momos the win.
“He was determined in the stretch. Obviously, we were the two speed horses. I was hoping to get a break but I didn’t get the break I wanted, but he put up a good fight,” Velazquez said.
Arzak, Ranger Fox, Big Everest, Swashbuckle, and Three Two Zone rounded out the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Dede McGehee, Smokin’ Jay banked $55,000 in victory while improving his record to 10-4-1-0. He returned $32.20 for a $2 win bet.
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