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ELMONT, NY – First Row Partners’ Royal Charlotte stepped up to the challenge impressively on Friday, taking on graded opponents with great aplomb in the $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park.
Breaking from the rail under Javier Castellano as the 3/2 favorite, Royal Charlotte wraced within a few lengths of early leader Cookie Dough, who posted opening fractions of :22.26 and :44.77. Midway through the far turn, Castellano tipped Royal Charlotte out to run three-wide toward the front.
Sweeping past Sue’s Fortune at the top of the stretch to take second, Royal Charlotte catapulted herself near the final furlong marker and easily usurped Cookie Dough for the lead. Continuing to run on strongly through to the wire, the Chad Brown trainee drew off to win by 4 lengths in a final time of 1:15.82 for the 6 1/2-furlong event over the fast main track.
“The key was saving all the ground as best I could,” Castellano said. “I knew she wasn’t going to be on the lead. I knew there was a lot of speed in the race. I wanted to sit right off the pace, but at the same time, she’d never been in that position far back and getting a lot of dirt in the face. At first, she didn’t like it much, and I had to squeeze her between horses. I tipped outside when I made the move and put her in the clear. She saw daylight and she took off. It was a quick reaction and that was the key to win the race. If I stayed inside and waited for the hole, I think it would have taken too much to do it.”
The rest of the field was similarly strung out behind the winner. Cookie Dough finished second by 5 1/2 lengths over Peruvian Appeal, while Brill faded steadily in the stretch to finish 8 1/2 lengths back in fourth. Shortly after straightening for home, jockey Junior Alvarado felt his mount Sue’s Fortune take an awkward step, so he pulled her up in a protective manner. Though she was subsequently vanned off as a precaution, the Daily Racing Form’s David Grening later reported that she seemed okay.
Royal Charlotte’s win was her fourth in as many career starts at as many tracks, having broken her maiden at Gulfstream Park before winning an allowance at Keeneland and the $75,000 Hystericalady Stakes at Monmouth Park. The 3-year-old daughter of Cairo Prince has now earned $201,900 in her career and will likely target the 7-furlong Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 3.
“We’ve always thought she was a nice filly,” Brown said. “She’s always trained well, but she’s been a bit of an overachiever. She always runs a little better than she trains, and for a horse like this to start off her career and keep getting better with every start and be so honest and consistent, I’m really lucky to have her. It was a tricky post and Javier showed why he’s a Hall of Fame rider. He didn’t panic and he just gave her a great trip and she really responded. I’m really proud of both of them.”
Royal Charlotte returned $5 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.60 to show. Cookie Dough brought back $5.60 to place and $3.60 to show, while Peruvian Appeal paid $3.80 to show.
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