ELMONT, NY – Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, and Nehoc Stables’ Pat On the Back was all heart on Saturday as he fought hard to earn his first graded score in the $300,000 Kelso Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park.

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Breaking from post 3 at 7/2 odds under Dylan Davis, Pat On the Back was a bit unsettled early but soon relaxed once he got behind foes. Three horses dueled for the lead while setting the pace: True TimberMonongahela, and the 6/5 favorite Prince Lucky.

Tipping out in the far turn, Pat On the Back fought hard with the bettors’ choice for the lead in the stretch, then dug in when Prince Lucky refused to yield on the inside. Inching ahead in the shadow of the wire, the Jeremiah Englehart trainee crossed a 1/2-length in front in a final time of 1:33.97 for the mile-long event over the fast main track.

“Today, I just tried to get him to relax,” Davis said. “He broke sharp again today and I got a good hold of him and he settled behind the leaders. I put myself behind (Prince Lucky); he was the horse to beat. Once they kicked on, he opened up for me outside of (Prince Lucky) and he finished well. He ran a good race today against open company.”

Unlucky in defeat, Prince Lucky was 3 lengths ahead of True Timber, who faded late but just held off Tale of Silence by a 1/2-length. Plainsman and an empty Monongahela completed the order of finish. Golden Brown was scratched.

Pat On the Back’s win was his third of the year – all at Belmont Park – and improved his record to 26-9-4-5. The New York-bred 5-year-old son of Congrats broke into seven-figure territory with his bankroll, having now earned $1,101,032.

“He really is a fighter and Dylan did a fantastic job of getting him off the pace,” Englehart said. “We didn’t want to be on the lead today and Dylan really did a masterful job of being able to get him back behind horses without fighting him too much. That was amazing.”

Pat On the Back returned $9 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.50 to show. Prince Lucky brought back $3.10 to place and $2.30 to show, while True Timber paid $2.90 to show.