ELMONT, NY – James Reiley McDonald’s Athens Queen overtook and outlasted several well-regarded juvenile fillies on Thursday to score the upset at odds of 11-1 in the $150,000 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park.
Rushed quickly from the gate under Albin Jimenez, Athens Queen sat in fourth early, close behind Wonder Stone through opening splits of :22.06 and :45.53. Running widest of four off the far turn, Athens Queen soon shared command with Lady Apple and the even-money favorite Tijori. Digging in gamely like a horse twice her age, Athens Queen fought hard to outrun Lady Apple by a neck at the wire in a final time of 1:05.37 for the 5 1/2-furlong main track event.
“She’s learning a lot and she surprised me in the end when she kept going and got away,” Jimenez said. “My plan was to break and go, but it didn’t work that way. But she seemed comfortable being behind. She looked great and kept going.”
Eyeinthesky was able to get up for third, a 1/2-length behind Lady Apple and 3/4 of a length ahead of a weakening Tijori. Wonder Stone faded to finish fifth ahead of a non-firing Six Pack Gal. Both Gallanor and Gorgeouswitha G were scratched.
Athens Queen’s win was her second straight following a maiden-breaking debut (also by a neck) at Keeneland on April 19. The juvenile daughter of Majestic Warrior has now earned $123,000 under the care of trainer Wesley Ward.
“She was always a nice filly from day one, we started breezing her over at Turfway in March, and she showed a lot of talent,” Ward said. “She wasn’t at this level like she was today, so it looks like she’s getting better.”
Athens Queen returned $24.40 to win, $8.90 to place, and $4.90 to show. Lady Apple brought back $6.10 to place and $4.20 to show, while Eyeinthesky paid $3.90 to show.