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ELMONT, NY – Juddmonte Farms homebred Pocket Square, expertly handled by Irad Ortiz Jr., rallied to a fashionable victory over stablemate Miss Teheran in Saturday’s $200,000 Athenia (G3), a 9-furlong inner turf test for fillies and mares 3 years old and up at Belmont Park.
The victory provided 4-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown with his 100th graded stakes win at Belmont Park, according to records provided by Equibase.
“What an achievement for my team, my owners, and my horses throughout the years that have run so hard,” Brown said. “A big thank you to NYRA for providing me and my horses such great facilities to train and race on through the years. They have been instrumental in developing my business.”
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A 4-year-old Night of Thunder chestnut, Pocket Square entered from a 4 1/4-length optional-claiming win traveling 9 furlongs on the Saratoga Race Course turf on August 25.
Pocket Square rated comfortably outside rivals in fourth as Stand for the Flag set splits of 25.30 seconds, 51.41, and 1:16.71 on the good turf.
Lake Lucerne pressed the pacesetter through the final turn with Made In Italy advancing up the rail and Pocket Square angling outside for the stretch run. But Pocket Square, always moving like a winner, took over the lead from Lake Lucerne at the stretch call and secured a 2 1/2-length win in a final time of 1:51.19.
Miss Teheran, with Manny Franco up, rallied outside rivals to secure the exacta by one length over Lake Lucerne.
“She was moving well and I had a good trip,” said Franco of Miss Teheran, who was pulled up in the gallop out and provided a precautionary ride home in the equine ambulance. “She bled (past the wire), which is the only excuse I can give. She ran a good race.”
Made In Italy and Stand for the Flag completed the order of finish. Main Track Only entrant Spice Is Nice was scratched and will instead target the $250,000 Beldame (G2) here on October 10.
Pocket Square, sixth in her lone sophomore start in the Musidora (G3) at York, was a Group 3 winner as a juvenile in France for her former conditioner Roger Charlton. She notched a debut win for Brown in a 1 1/16-mile Keeneland allowance tilt in April and followed with back-to-back fifth-place finishes in Grade 1 company in the 1-mile Longines Just a Game in June at Belmont and the 9-furlong Diana in August at Saratoga.
Brown said he may have moved Pocket Square into Grade 1 company too quickly.
“She had that explosive run at Keeneland and I’ve done that before, where I run them in a race like the Just a Game off an effort like that and won,” Brown said. “When it works out well, you feel like a hero. When it doesn’t work out, you have to go back to the drawing board, which I had to do. I probably should have brought her along just a little bit slower after that Keeneland race and not throw her in the deep end of the pool, but that’s past us now, and we have her back on track with a couple of really nice wins.”
The victory provided Ortiz Jr. with his fourth win on the card following a trio of scores for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with Life Is Good in the Kelso Handicap (G2) in race 4; impressive 2-year-old filly maiden winner Nest in race 1; and a romping maiden win aboard juvenile New York-bred colt Overstep in race 6.
“She did everything right,” Ortiz Jr. said of Pocket Square. “She broke and relaxed. She waited on me to call on her to run, and when I asked her, she took off. She looked like much the best.
“I only used the stick a couple of times and that was it,” he added. “She was moving comfortably, so I didn’t need to do much.”
Brown, a 14-time leading trainer at Belmont, posted his first graded win at Belmont in the 2008 Miss Grillo (a Grade 3 that year) with Karen Woods’ Maram. Nearly a third of Brown’s graded stakes coups at Belmont have come at Grade 1 level, including 6 victories in the Manhattan, 5 Flower Bowl wins, and 4 straight Just a Game triumphs (2017-20).
Bred in Great Britain by her owner, Pocket Square banked $110.000 in victory while improving her record to 9-5-0-1. She returned $2.90 for a $2 win wager.
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