ELMONT, NY – Trainer Richard Baltas had to be proud of the heart that his pupil Neptune’s Storm displayed on Saturday when he dug in to out-duel a trio of tough foes and win the $400,000 Hill Prince Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park.
Breaking from post 8 at 10/1 odds under Ricardo Santana, Jr., Neptune’s Storm was able to clear several of his inside foes and crossed over into the two-path heading into the clubhouse turn. Just ahead of him, A Thread of Blue set a turtle-like pace, posting fractions of :25.48, :50.92, and 1:15.20.
Off the far turn, Neptune’s Storm made his move, but A Thread of Blue had enough left to fight back gamely on the rail. Standard Deviation and Henley’s Joy soon joined the fray, turning it into a four-horse sprint for the finish.
Taking command late, Neptune’s Storm inched ahead and hit the wire 3/4 of a length clear in a final time of 1:49.74 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the firm inner turf course.
“I was just a passenger today,” said Santana, Jr. “He put himself in a position that he wanted. That horse is so classy and he knows how to win. He did everything by himself, to be honest. Turning for home, I knew I had plenty of horse and I knew I just had to wait. This stretch is so long, so I knew I could wait until the right moment. He gave me a nice, strong kick and finish to get home.”
A Thread of Blue narrowly held second by a nose over Standard Deviation, with Henley’s Joy just a neck behind them in fourth. Digital Age was a 1/2-length ahead of Seismic Wave for fifth, while completing the order of finish came Bourbon War, Uncle Benny, and Taos.
Neptune’s Storm’s win was his first since winning a pair of ungraded stakes at Santa Anita Park earlier this year and improved his overall record to 12-5-2-3. The 3-year-old gelded son of Stormy Atlantic has now earned $529,585 for co-owners John Rochfort, Saul Gevertz, Lynn Gitomer, Mike Goetz, Michael Nentwig, and Daniel Weiner.
“He deserved it today,” Rochfort said. “All the credit has to go to Richie Baltas and his team. He has a great staff. They’ve done a great job with him. After the last race, they changed things up and got the horse to relax a bit and it showed today. He just ran great. We took the blinkers off and trained him that way for a few weeks and he just ran a fantastic race today.”
Neptune’s Storm returned $22.40 to win, $7.30 to place, and $5.40 to show. A Thread of Blue brought back $4.30 to place and $3.30 to show, while Standard Deviation paid $5.80 to show.