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ELMONT, NY – Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo made good on his 7/5 favoritism with a strong stretch rally to win Saturday’s $250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park.
The Belmont Derby is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Gufo receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Turf at Keeneland this November.
Gufo broke from post 2 under Junior Alvarado as the bettors’ top choice in the field of eight 3-year-olds and settled into a rail-skimming position toward the back of the field.
Mo Ready set the tempo up front, posting fractions of :24.67, :50.61, and 1:15.56 while No Word and Moon Over Miami closely pursued.
Gufo steadily ate into the gap between himself and the front-runners through the far turn, then tipped out to run three-wide at the top of the stretch.
No Word briefly took the lead near the 1/8 pole, but Gufo soon swept past. The Christophe Clement trainee crossed a geared-down length ahead of No Word while completing the firm 1 1/4-mile inner turf route in 2:02.25.
“I had to do my homework,” said Alvarado. “He’s not a hard horse to ride, but it can be a little tricky with him to make sure he doesn’t fall too far back, or it takes him too long to get home. I kept him between horses; he was paying attention to everything and he was focused. When I turned for home, I knew I had a lot of horse under me.”
No Word was 1 3/4 lengths clear of Mo Ready for second, while Ajourneytofreedom nosed out Pixelate for fourth.
Moon Over Miami, South Bend, and Venezuelan Hug completed the order of finish.
Domestic Spending, the 5/2 morning line favorite, was a veterinarian scratch in the race restricted to 3-year-olds.
Gufo’s win was his fourth of the year and avenged his lone 2020 defeat last time out in the Saratoga Derby, which Domestic Spending won by a head. The 3-year-old Declaration of War colt now carries a record of 7-5-1-1 with $415,010 earned.
“He won well,” Clement said. “I thought he had a great trip from Junior, and when he asked him to quicken, he really quickened well in the stretch. He’s a good horse. If you look at all his races this year, he’s been running well all year round. I know he got beat last time, but he actually ran a winning race when you look back at it.”
Clement refused to commit so quickly to facing elders in the World Championships for Gufo’s next start, indicating that the Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar in late November against straight 3-year-olds was also under consideration.
Gufo returned $4.90 to win, $3.10 to place, and $2.40 to show. No Word brought back $4 to place and $2.90 to show, while Mo Ready paid $7.40 to show.
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