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OCEANPORT, NJ – In the $100,000 Rainbow Heir Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, Belgrano found an opening along the rail early in the stretch and burst through for a 2-length victory.
It marked the first time 79-year-old trainer Frank Russo saddled a winner in a six-figure race.
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“After this race, I think I can say for sure that this is the best horse I have ever had,” said Russo, who has been training since 1976. “I thought it might be tough for him at the end, especially going shorter, but he sort of got his way at the beginning of the stretch when the rail opened. It was a perfect trip.
Belgrano, who won the Virgil “Buddy” Raines Stakes at Monmouth Park a year ago, earned his fourth win in 6 starts on the track’s turf course. The 7-year-old gelding was coming off a 6-length win in handicap company at a mile, with the shorter distance proving to be no issue. He finished 2 lengths ahead of Grateful Bred, who was a neck better than The Connector.
“This is an excellent horse,” winning jockey Isaac Castillo said. “I broke good. I got good position behind the early speed. Coming out of the turn, the hole opened on the rail and he just went through it with that strong kick he has. He is so relaxed behind horses early. That’s how he is at his best. Then, when you want him to go, he goes, just like he did today when the rail opened for him.”
Belgrano returned $8.40 to win in the field of nine 3-year-olds, flashing under the wire in 1:02.52.
“It’s a great feeling,” Russo said. “This is the biggest race (purse-wise) I have ever won. I was worried about the rain. If it was off the turf, we were out, so I’m happy it stayed on the grass. I think he is at his best right now. Could not be happier with him than I am right now.”
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