ELMONT, NY – Gainesway Stable’s homebred Blind Ambition took the lead at the start and never looked back en route to wiring the field in Saturday’s $125,000 Elusive Quality Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking well from the rail under John Velazquez, Blind Ambition was coaxed to the front early and posted initial splits of :22.24 and :45.09 while under pressure from the favored Commute to his outside. Cutting the far corner and beginning to separate from his competition, the Todd Pletcher trainee blasted off down the stretch and finished strongly, hitting the wire first by 2 lengths in a final time of 1:20.65 for the 7-furlong turf sprint.
“We talked about it in the paddock, we didn’t think there was a lot of speed in the race,” Velazquez said. “When we broke, he got so well out of there. We got to the lead and that didn’t bother him, and he kicked home pretty well. I rode him first time out a year and a half ago, and I don’t know if he wants to go too far, but certainly at sprint distances, he can compete and show the best of his ability, like today.”
Conquest Panthera finished well down the stretch after trailing for much of the race and was up for second by 1 3/4 lengths over Undrafted, with Ready for Rye taking fourth. Field of Courage nosed out Commute for fifth, with Great Wide Open a neck back in seventh. Commend, Great Stuff, and Kharafa completed the order of finish.
Blind Ambition’s win was first since taking an allowance event here last October. The 4-year-old son of Tapit improved his record to 12-5-0-1 with career earnings of $249,135.
“We were hoping he would break sharp coming out of the one hole,” said Byron Hughes, assistant to Pletcher. “There wasn’t a whole lot of speed coming into the race so when he broke well, that really helped Johnny out and he helped him gave him a great ride. He cut back from a mile for this, and I think six and a half, to seven or mile is right up his alley.”
Blind Ambition returned $12.40 to win, $6.80 to place, and $4.60 to show. Conquest Panthera brought back $5.80 to place and $3.90 to show, while Undrafted paid $3.90 to show.