ELMONT, NY – Jockey Joel Rosario’s decision to closely attend the pace with Decorated Invader paid off handsomely as he put on an ultra-powerful performance to win Saturday’s $150,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park.
Breaking from the rail as the heavy 3/5 favorite, Decorated Invader sat just behind early leader Proven Strategies, with Rosario opting to forego the colt’s usual back-of-the-pack position due to a perceived lack of pace. Proven Strategies raced relatively unpressured through opening fractions of :23.86 and :47.50 while remaining a lane off the rail throughout.
Midway through the far turn, Rosario pressed “Go” on Decorated Invader and sent him through the opening between Proven Strategies and the rail, but the pacesetter did not give in without a fight. Proven Strategies challenged back at the top of the stretch, but Decorated Invader’s talent shone through as he edged clear under a hand ride.
Confidently maneuvered the length of the stretch, the Christophe Clement trainee crossed much the best in a final time of 1:33.66 for the mile-long firm turf event.
“He’s very classy,” Rosario said. “The pace was OK, but not too fast. He was there for me and so relaxed, so I just let him be there because it looked like there was no pace up front. I made a move before the turn and I saw the horse inside come off the rail a little bit, go in and out, and I wasn’t sure what he was doing. I let him go inside and started working from there.”
Proven Strategies stayed on for second ahead of Mr. Kringle and Vanzzy, who was rank at the start while along the runner-up’s right hip. Famished and Venezuelan Hug completed the order of finish.
Maroon Maniac was scratched.
Decorated Invader’s win was his second straight following the Cutler Bay Stakes in late March and second at the graded stakes level, including the Summer Stakes (G1). The 3-year-old Declaration of War colt improved his overall record to 6-4-1-0 with $370,535 earned for co-owners West Point Thoroughbreds, William Freeman, William Sandbrook, and Cheryl Manning.
“I’ve always liked him since Day 1 and I think he’s been a tremendous horse since the beginning,” Clement said. “He’s been a top-class horse even last year. He was very unlucky in the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Turf [G1], where he finished fourth). He won a Grade 1 in Canada. He won at Gulfstream this year. He won one today and I think he’s good enough to do a mile, a mile and 1/4. I could be wrong, but I think he’ll stay.”
Decorated Invader returned $3.20 to win and $2.30 to place, while Proven Strategies paid $3 to place. There was no show betting.