ELMONT, NY – Bloom Racing Stable’s Henley’s Joy sat the perfect stalking trip that enabled him to power past a game Social Paranoia late to shock the board at 20/1 in Saturday’s $1,000,000 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
Breaking from post 6 under Jose Lezcano, Henley’s Joy sat in third early while Blenheim Palace pressured Moon Colony through opening fractions of :23.31, :47.80, 1:11.60, and 1:35.53. Lezcano kept Henley’s Joy along the inner hedge as the field rounded the far turn, but at the top of the stretch, he split him out three-wide to challenge for the lead.
Running past the outside of new leader Social Paranoia in mid-stretch, Henley’s Joy dug in and fought his way forward for the victory. The Mike Maker trainee crossed with a 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:58.29 for the 1 1/4-mile event over the firm inner turf course.
“The horse seemed very comfortable,” Lezcano said. “Around the backside, I was a little worried he was kind of jumping off the bridle. When I asked him to take off, it was easier because of how he broke out of the gate.”
After running close to Henley’s Joy for much of the race, Social Paranoia was unable to hold him off in the stretch but still finished a 1/2-length ahead of a hard-charging Rockemperor for second. Also displaying a mild kick from the rear came Digital Age in fourth. The 9/2 favorite Seismic Wave nosed out Plus Que Parfait for fifth, while Standard Deviation was a 1/2-length ahead of Cape of Good Hope in seventh. Moon Colony faded steadily in the stretch, finishing ninth by a nose over English Bee. Completing the order of finish came Spinoff, a spent Blenheim Palace, and Master Fencer.
The undefeated 5/1 second choice Demarchelier, winner of the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) here on June 1, took a bad step near the 1/2-mile pole and was pulled up. After he was vanned off, the Daily Racing Form’s David Grening reported that Demarchelier had suffered a lateral condylar fracture of his right front foreleg and will undergo surgery, with a favorable prognosis for recovery.
He’s No Lemon failed to draw in from the also-eligibles list.
Henley’s Joy’s win was his first since winning the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes over the Gulfstream Park lawn last December. The 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, who Bloom Racing Stable purchased for $50,000 as an unraced juvenile, improved his record to 11-4-3-0 with $953,160 earned.
“It’s such a big race to win and it’s so important, but for this particular horse, he’s had the worst racing luck and he’s just been so honest, so many rough trips, it was just so gratifying to see him be able to show everybody how talented he is,” winning owner Jeffrey Bloom said. “He’s had so many near-misses in situations where things didn’t go right and he answered the call today in a big spot.”
Henley’s Joy returned $43.60 to win, $21.60 to place, and $13.60 to show. Social Paranoia brought back $15.80 to place and $9.20 to show, while Rockemperor paid $8.70 to show.