ELMONT, N.Y. – Alto Racing’s Anchor Down splashed his way to a convincing 6 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester at Belmont Park, picking up his first graded stakes win and stamping himself a contender for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap on June 11.
Most recently seen finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in April, Anchor Down was sent straight to the lead by jockey Jose Ortiz, where he ticked off fractions of 23.28, 46.88 and 1:10.84 with Stormin Monarcho and Samraat in pursuit. Shaking clear of those rivals once straightened for home, the 5-year-old gray son of Tapit rolled unchallenged to the finish line, covering the mile in 1:35.10 over the muddy, sealed track.
“The horse broke great and when I asked him to go at the quarter pole, he just exploded and gave me everything he had; I didn’t have to use my whip,” said Ortiz. “I didn’t push him too much and he gave me a great run.”
The victory was the first of the year for Anchor Down, who began 2016 with a pair of third-place finishes at Gulfstream Park, including the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, in which he was disqualified and placed fourth. Overall, he is 4-1-2 from 13 career starts and now has earned $276,920.
“This race has been on our radar for a while,” said Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “I wasn’t surprised he won so convincingly; he’s put in some big efforts before against some nice horses. He’d breezed well for this race, and he’d been training well since his last race. The Metropolitan Handicap [Grade 1, $1.25 million, June 11] is possible; we’ll see how he comes out of this.”
Sent off at 9-5, Anchor Down returned $5.70 for a $2 win bet.
Multiple graded stakes winner Samraat, making his third start since June 2014, was second, 3 ¼ lengths in front of Mylute.
“He ran terrific,” said Rick Violette, who trains Samraat for My Meadowview Farm. “It was nice to see him handle a little bit better quality of horse than he ran against last time. Moving forward we are going to have a lot of fun.
“We’ll think about [the Met Mile],” added Violette. “Really, his ‘A’ game is running a little bit further than a mile. This was a perfect spot timing wise. I’ll talk with the owner and see what his thoughts are but the Met Mile isn’t out of the question.”
Red Vine, the 4-5 favorite, was fourth, followed by Stormin Monarcho and Matterhorn.