ELMONT, NY – Katherine Ball’s homebred Limousine Liberal overcame trouble at the top of the stretch to get up just in time at the wire and win Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Belmont Sprint Championship is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Limousine Liberal receiving an automatic berth in the TwinSpires Sprint at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Breaking at his own pace along the rail under Jose Ortiz, Limousine Liberal was content to watch Shaft of Light post opening splits of :22.22 and :44.84 while riding in the two-path. Midway through the far turn, Eye Luv Lulu loomed to Shaft of Light’s outside and began to take command as they exited onto the front stretch. Meanwhile, Whitmore attempted to squeeze his way between Shaft of Light and the rail, which worked for a moment before Whitmore clipped the rail and bounced outward into Shaft of Light, causing the early pacesetter to dart to his right over several lanes. Safely watching the chaos in front of him while running wide, the Ben Colebrook-trained Limousine Liberal was able to fight hard in mid-stretch and collar a re-rallying Whitmore in the shadow of the wire before poking his head in front and edging away late to win by a neck in a final time of 1:21.53 for the 7-furlong main track event.
“He wasn’t pulling me like he usually does, so I thought they were going too fast,” Ortiz said. “They went :44 and it paid off in the end. I didn’t expect Whitmore to be in front of me, so I decided to follow. I knew my horse was going to have something for the end. He decided to go the rail. I thought he was a little tired, so I went outside. But I’m glad I didn’t have to check hard and I’m (happy) I was able to win the race.”
Eye Luv Lulu faded late to take third over Lewisfield, while Favorable Outcome outlasted only Shaft of Light. The stewards reviewed the incident in the far turn but ultimately ruled that there was not enough evidence to alter the original order of finish.
Limousine Liberal’s win was his second in his last three attempts, bookending a third-place effort last out in the Grade 1 Met Mile. The 6-year-old gelded son of Successful Appeal improved his overall record to 23-9-6-4 with earnings of $1,645,261.
“I could see Jose had a ton of horse and I knew he was going to make his run,” Colebrook said. “I didn’t want the wire to come too soon because he was coming with a big run. I’m just glad he proved he can win outside the state of Kentucky. I thought we were in the right place. I thought maybe we’d be ahead of Whitmore, maybe not so far back, but they went so fast.”
Limousine Liberal returned $5.70 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.30 to show. Whitmore brought back $2.90 to place and $2.50 to show, while Eye Luv Lulu paid $3.50 to show.