ELMONT, N.Y. – Runaway Lute stayed undefeated with a convincing 8 3/4-length victory in Saturday’s $125,000 Rockville Centre for New York-bred 2-year-olds on the Belmont Park main track.
Trained by Gary Contessa, Runaway Lute went from third heading into the upper stretch before going three-wide and drawing clear to win his second race in as many starts. The son of Midnight Lute hit the wire in 1:10.82 in his stakes debut.
Jockey Javier Castellano steadied Runaway Lute after a stumble at the start and stayed close to the pace as Manifest Destiny set an opening fraction of 22.16 seconds and Silver Mission took over and went a half-mile in 45.85. Runaway Lute accelerated to take a three-length lead in the stretch before pulling away in the first six-furlong start of his career.
“Obviously, after the fact, I’m glad he got left a little bit [at the break] because he showed us a new dimension,” Contessa said. If you want to have a good horse, he’s got to have that ability to not have things go his way and win anyway. So I’m glad to see this, I’ve always thought he was a super horse. Now we’ll take the next step forward, maybe the [Grade 2] Saratoga Special [on August 14] or the [Grade 1] Hopeful [on September 5], but we’re definitely going to go open company because I think he’s that good.”
Runaway Lute, who posted a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden-breaking win on May 28, went off at 7-5 and paid $4.90 for a $2 win wager.
“He’s shown a lot of potential. I think he’s going to be a really good horse in the future,” Castellano said. “The way he did it today, he did it the right way. When it was time to go, he [went.] He switched at the right time and right place. You don’t see too many 2-year-olds that way. It’s a big advantage for a jockey to ride those kind of horses.
“He had problems at the start but it didn’t matter,” Castellano added. “I didn’t want to rush and put him in the lead. I wanted to teach him something. Today was the perfect scenario for that [with] only a five-horse field.”
Ethan Hunt, Silver Mission, Manifest Destiny and Concatulations completed the order of finish.
In Race 8, King Kreesa outlasted Force the Pass by a nose to repeat in the $150,000 Forbidden Apple at one mile on the Widener turf.
The David Donk-trained dark bay gelding, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., clocked a 1:33.06 final time for his first win since the 2015 Forbidden Apple, spanning seven starts. The 6-year-old went off at 5-2 and returned $6.70 on a $2 win wager to improve his career earnings to $1,256,704.
“Irad told me afterwards he [King Kreesa] really wants to battle,” Donk said. “He didn’t want him to spurt away too much because he didn’t want him hanging. I was really impressed. I was impressed with him last summer, and today. Everyone knows I’m not really a speed guy, but speed is your best friend. I said, ‘Don’t slow it down too much. But keep everybody honest.’ We’ll likely look at the West Point [Saratoga, August 26].”
King Kreesa has won two of the three editions of the Forbidden Apple, which is open to 4-year-olds and up. He set the pace with fractions of 24.31, 47.20 and 1:09.82 to stay ahead of program-favorite Force the Pass.
“There wasn’t too much pace in the race today and that’s his best race [being on the lead] so I didn’t take anything away from him that he gave me,” Ortiz said. “The trainer brought him ready because he went a little fast and then, when he felt the other one [Forge the Pass, No. 1] he kept fighting. He’s always a fighter, he has a big heart. He’s a nice horse.”
Force the Pass, trained by Alan Goldberg and ridden by Hall of Fame John Velazquez, came in second and now has finished in the money in all of his 11 career starts in moving to 4-4-3.
Tapitation, Lubash and Brickyard Kitten completed the order of finish.