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ELMONT, NY – Red Oak Stable homebred Mind Control‘s first start for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher resulted in him upsetting the heavily-favored Firenze Fire and four others in Sunday’s $250,000 John A. Nerud Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park.
The Nerud is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with winner receiving an automatic berth in the Sprint at Del Mar this November.
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Mind Control broke alertly from post 2 under John Velazquez at 5/1 odds and pressured the rail-breaking 3/5 top choice Firenze Fire through opening fractions of :23.05 and :46.03.
Mind Control took command off the far turn, and though the bettors’ choice fought back gamely along the inside and made slight contact with the new leader, Mind Control held safe to win the 7-furlong fast dirt sprint by a head in 1:21.94.
“I told Todd that if he broke well, I was going to use him to get into a good position,” Velazquez said. “I knew (Firenze Fire) had to be pushed coming out of there, and if someone else wanted to go crazy, then I would sit off of them. I knew there was enough speed, so I used him well enough to put his head in front and then (Firenze Fire) came after me. It was a two-horse race. That’s the way it turned out and my horse was better than the other one today.”
Three Technique took third by 1 1/2 lengths over Top Seed. Behind them came Wicked Trick and American Power to complete the order of finish. Doubly Blessed scratched.
Mind Control’s win was his first since the March 2020 Tom Fool Handicap (G3) and improved his overall record to 21-8-3-4. The 5-year-old intact son of Stay Thirsty has now bankrolled $1,259,229 for co-owners Red Oak Stable (who also bred him) and Madaket Stables.
“It was a very good effort,” Pletcher said. “He came to us (from former trainer Gregg Sacco) in very good condition and we’ve been pointing to this race since his arrival. It was great to see him break well. I knew when he got his head in front, he’s a fighter. It was a fun race to watch.”
Pletcher indicated that the 7-furlong Forego Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 28 is his likely next target.
“As well as he ran today, (he’ll need) a little bit of a freshening in between,” Pletcher said. “I’ll talk to (Red Oak Stable racing manager) Rick Sacco and the team, but it seems like the Forego would make sense after today.”
Mind Control returned $12.80 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.80 to show. Firenze Fire brought back $2.30 to place and $2.10 to show. Three Technique paid $3.10 to show.
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