ELMONT, NY – Castleton Lyons’ New York-bred Gucci Factor took on a bevy of competitors and nipped them all at the wire to clinch a thrilling five-way photo finish in Sunday’s $300,000 Poker Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park.
Breaking from post 4 under Joel Rosario at 5/1 odds, Gucci Factor settled toward the rear while saving ground and allowed the pace to develop ahead of him. Dr. Edgar led the field initially, posting opening fractions of :23.71, :46.68 and 1:10.44 while Krampus and the 9/5 favorite Clyde’s Image gave closest chase.
Midway into the far turn, Rosario tipped Gucci Factor out widest of all as Clyde’s Image began to take on Dr. Edgar. At the top of the stretch, Gucci Factor commenced a strong rally toward the front down the middle of the lane. Clyde’s Image held the lead until he took a bad step near the 1/16 pole, which caused jockey Javier Castellano to immediately pull him up in an effort to save him. A final push from Gucci Factor in the shadow of the wire made the difference as he beat four other foes – each by a nose – for the win.
“He was trying really hard and running at the end, I’m just glad we got close at the wire,” said Rosario after the Christophe Clement trainee hit the wire in a final time of 1:32.54 for the mile-long event over the firm turf course. “He showed a lot of heart. He’s there for you all the time. He’s a real honest horse. He just loves to run. I thought he got the jump in the last minute, but I wasn’t sure.”
The tight finishes continued with second through fifth and included Hembree, Krampus, Dr. Edgar, and Clyde’s Image. Farther behind them came Master Merion, Ticonderoga, and Breaking the Rules to complete the order of finish.
Shortly after crossing the wire, Clyde’s Image was vanned off. As first reported by the Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersch, trainer Tom Bush confirmed that Clyde’s Image had suffered a bowed tendon and had run his last race, but that he would survive the injury.
Gucci Factor’s win was his second straight after winning his first career stakes event here last out in the $125,000 Kingston Stakes for New York-breds. The 6-year-old gelded son of Gio Ponti (who was also campaigned by Lyons and Clement) improved his record to 14-7-1-2 with $443,450 earned.
“He’s an anxious kind of a horse,” Clement said. “He loves Belmont Park and he never stopped getting better. It’s nice when the patience pays off. He’s also a son of Gio Ponti, which is always fun. You could see he was coming with run toward the wire, and watching Joel not having to use his whip, you know he thought he was going to get there. A very tight race and they all ran well.”
Gucci Factor returned $12.20 to win, $6.70 to place, and $4.20 to show. Hembree brought back $10.20 to place and $5.60 to show, while Krampus paid $8.60 to show.