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ELMONT, NY – W. S. Farish’s homebred Highest Honors swung four-wide in the far turn and unleashed a strong rally down the middle of the track to collect the crown in Friday’s $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga.
Breaking from the far outside post under Jose Ortiz at 4/1 odds, Highest Honors trailed 6-7 lengths behind in the early running. Meanwhile, his even money-favored Chad Brown stablemate Looking At Bikinis led while a lane off of the rail through opening fractions of :24.23 and :49.36.
Heading into the far turn, Rowayton ranged up to apply pressure on the front-runner, while behind them, Endorsed and Highest Honors began to make their moves. Forced to run three- and four-wide through the far turn, Endorsed and Highest Honors were able to use the drier outer part of the muddy main track to their advantage and hit the top of the stretch running four-abreast with the other pair.
“I was on the outside and (jockey) Joe (Bravo) broke really good on Endorsed,” Ortiz said. “So, I decided to take back instead of being four wide into the first turn. I thought, ‘I’ll take back right away and drop in.’ On the backside, there wasn’t a lot going on. It was a slow pace, but the track hasn’t been playing fast today. I just tried to keep him comfortable going a mile and 1/8 for the first time. I had a lot of horse by the 5/8 pole, and I smooched at him a little bit with a 1/2-mile (remaining), and I went around Joe by the 3/8 pole. He was moving beautiful.”
Rowayton and Looking At Bikinis both gave in shortly after straightening up, turning the final furlong into a two-horse sprint. Running wider than his foe, Highest Honors was able to dig deep and grind out the score by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:52.27 for the 1 1/8-mile event.
While unable to keep pace with the eventual winner, Endorsed (like Highest Honors) handled his first two-turn race well, finishing 5 lengths ahead of Looking At Bikinis for second. Rowayton faded in the stretch to miss third by a neck, with Intrepid Heart and an eased Direct Order completing the order of finish.
Cairo Cat (who flipped in the saddling area but was able to walk back to the barn under his own power), Grumps Little Tots, and Mo Gotcha were all scratched.
Highest Honors’ win was his second straight after breaking his maiden at Belmont Park on June 1 while going 1 1/16 miles, a unique one-turn distance at that track. The 3-year-old son of Tapit, who finished second by a neck on debut when sprinting at Keeneland, now carries a record of 3-2-1-0 with $114,800 earned.
“Today’s day was for Highest Honors,” Brown said. “He made that big sweeping move and we thought he would get a mile and 1/8 in his first time (going) two turns, and it looks like even a little more distance won’t hurt him.”
Highest Honors returned $10.20 to win, $5.40 to place, and $2.70 to show. Endorsed brought back $7.30 to place and $3.80 to show, while Looking At Bikinis paid $2.10 to show.
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