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ELMONT, NY – Backwards Stable’s homebred Fire Key flew home gamely to defend her title in Saturday’s $100,000 Floral Park Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking from the rail under Julian Pimentel as the 2/1 favorite, Fire Key sat within striking range of early leader Goldwood, who made the pace through opening fractions of :22.50 and :45.29. Fire Key remained close and tipped off of the rail halfway through the far turn, taking dead aim at the front-runner.
At the top of the stretch, Goldwood held a slim advantage but came under pressure from Fire Key. Running stride for stride, the two battled fiercely with each other, but Fire Key refused to yield once on the lead.
Holding sway as three other foes joined the scene late, Fire Key crossed a neck ahead of Goldwood at the wire. The James Ryerson trainee completed the 6-furlong sprint over the firm outer turf course in a final time of 1:08.29.
“We just had a perfect trip,” Pimentel said. “A couple speed horses went ahead and I just sat behind them. When it was time, I moved and she had plenty of horse to get home. Going into the turn, I was pretty confident and I knew I had enough horse to get there.”
Goldwood was a head past Fear No Evil, who rallied from last and just missed. A nose behind her was Dynatail, with Lady Mamba a neck further back. Mominou was eased after falling behind in the stretch and completed the order of finish.
I’llhandalthecash and Misericordia were trainer scratches.
Fire Key’s win was her second of the year, having taken the License Fee Stakes here on April 28 in her first start for Ryerson. The New York-bred 6-year-old daughter of Friesan Fire now carries a record of 33-9-10-2 with $735,910 earned.
“The 3/4 (of a mile distance) really seems to help her,” Ryerson said of his pupil whose 6-furlong turf record now stands at 12-7-4-0. “She hasn’t won going 5 1/2 (furlongs) in a while. You have to ride her a little bit to get the position you want to get, and going 3/4, she’s able to get that without any difficulty and she has more left to finish. Unlike 7/8 (of a mile), which is a little far, she’s able to hold off horses going 3/4. It just hits her in the head.”
Fire Key returned $6.20 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.30 to show. Goldwood brought back $3.30 to place and $2.40 to show, while Fear No Evil paid $2.60 to show.
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