ELMONT, NY – Daniel McConnell’s homebred Prince Lucky sprung the big upset for the biggest win of his career on Saturday, gamely splitting foes like a horse with twice his experience to take the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking without incident from post 5 under John Velazquez, Prince Lucky ranged up to run three-wide near the front alongside Dark Vader while Lunar Beauty held command along the rail through initial splits of :23.27, :46.26, and 1:10.18. As Lunary Beauty began fading through the far turn, Rugbyman joined the fight widest of them all, and with Dark Vader still holding strong along the inside, the three were set down for a furious final drive. The trio were noses apart through much of the stretch run, but in the final 1/16, Prince Lucky stuck his nose ahead and held his position through to the wire, winning the 8 1/2-furlong main track event by a neck in a final time of 1:41.41.
The stewards had to examine the photo from the wire before determining that Rugbyman had nosed out second over Dark Vader in what looked to be a head-bob finish. Further back, the 7-5 favorite Mask took fourth after being unable to fire from his ground-saving trip in mid-pack. Soutache, Breaking the Rules, and Lunar Beauty completed the order of finish. High North was scratched.
“I had the perfect trip,” said Velazquez, “I was able to sit back at first and get a feel for the race. He’s really matured since the last time I rode him. He seems to be putting it all together and maturing at the right time. Once we came down on the inside, he was full of run and really extended away to the finish.”
Prince Lucky’s win was his first of 2018 and improved his overall record to 8-4-0-2. The 3-year-old gelded son of Corinthian increased his career bankroll to $231,690 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“He had a very good work last week and we decided he was in sharp form and that we would take a shot,” Pletcher said. “The trip at Pimlico (in the $100,000 LARC Sir Barton Stakes) is a little hard to analyze because of the fog and conditions, but we felt like we maybe over-rated him a little in terms of him taking too much of a hold of him. I told Johnny, ‘Anything he is offering on his own, let him have it.'”
Prince Lucky returned $30 to win, $11.80 to place, and $6.60 to show. Rugbyman brought back $5.30 to place and $3.60 to show, while Dark Vader paid $3.80 to show.