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ELMONT, NY – Sport Model‘s victory in the Cupecoy’s Joy and Ocala Dream‘s triumph in the Spectacular Bid were the highlights of Saturday’s twin New York Stallion Series Stakes (NYSSS) at Belmont Park.
Each held at 7 furlongs on the outer turf, the Cupecoy’s Joy is restricted to 3-year-old fillies eligible for the NYSSS series and the Spectacular Bid for their male counterparts.
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Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Sport Model handled a class boost with aplomb, taking command at the top of the stretch and drawing off to a 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s Cupecoy’s Joy.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the daughter of Freud arrived at the test for off a third-out maiden victory for a $40,000 tag going 6 furlongs over the Widener on May 7.
Expertly piloted by Luis Saez, Sport Model tracked to the outside, just behind last-out stakes winner Shaker Shack, who produced fractions of 23.22 and 46.15 seconds over the firm turf.
Saez gave Sport Model her cue late in the turn and overtook Shaker Shack just inside the 1/4-pole. Funwhileitlasted launched a menacing bid in the final furlong, but Sport Model prevailed in a final time of 1:21.16. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Shaker Shack, who held on for third.
Completing the order of finish were Shesadirtydancer, Big Time Lady, Show Me the Honey, Lot of Honey, Adriatic Rose, Ava’s Grace, and Proper Grammar.
“She’s progressing. She was very good today,” said Saez, who also rode Lady Joan to victory in the 2017 Cupecoy’s Joy. “I needed the pony going out because she’s so strong. I knew I had a lot of horse and when we got to the top of the stretch, she just took off. She was battling. When she felt the pressure coming, she gave me another gear.”
Clement, who also saddled last-place finisher Proper Grammar, praised Saez for a picture-perfect ride.
“I liked both fillies going in, but obviously one was very disappointing and the other ran very well,” said Clement, who earned his third stakes triumph of the Belmont spring/summer meet. “Luis gave her a great ride. He was always very comfortable, and she was the best horse today, which is nice.”
Clement said the $150,000 NYSSS Statue of Liberty, a 1-mile turf test for sophomore fillies on August 4 at Saratoga Race Course will likely be Sport Model’s next task.
Sport Model, who returned $14.60 for a $2 win wager, was bred in the Empire State by Mr. and Mrs. James P. Curran and Dr. and Mrs. John McDermott. She is out of the black type-producing Rockport Harbor mare Just Say Hey and is a half-sibling to stakes winner Twirling Devon. Sport Model was purchased for $100,000 from Thorndale Farm’s consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred Yearling Sale.
Ocala Dream had the distinction of improving his Beyer Speed Figures in each of his first 4 career starts. The continual improvement extended to his stakes debut on Saturday as the Effinex colt took command at the top of the stretch and outkicked 5/2 favorite Step Dancer to post a 1-length score in the Spectacular Bid.
Ocala Dream, owned by Thomas Albrecht, Vincent Fusaro and James Klein, broke his maiden at fourth asking last out by 1 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile turf contest over firm going at Belmont.
Trainer Tom Morley said before the race he was looking to use this contest as a springboard to the $150,000 NYSSS Cab Calloway going 1 mile on the turf July 28 at Saratoga Race Course.
But Morley saw his charge garner more than just a positive experience. Ocala Dream, under jockey Junior Alvarado, tracked in fourth position as Dreamer’s Disease led the 11-horse field through an opening 1/4-mile in 22.82 seconds and the 1/2 in 45.61 over firm going.
Alvarado had plenty of horse out of the turn, surging to the front in overtaking the tiring pacesetter from the outside. Barrage challenged in the final furlong and Step Dancer made an even stronger later bid, but Ocala Dream pressed on to complete the course in 1:21.20.
“It’s always a big edge when you have a horse who breaks out of the gate very good,” Alvarado said. “It helps you to get the position you want. He broke alertly and put himself in a good spot, I just had to guide him turning for home. Once I got him in the clear, he knew what to do after that. I kept after him just a little bit to get the job done. He wasn’t the favorite but he was much the best today.
“I was very pleased with the way he won last time and even though we were going a little shorter this time, I didn’t have a problem with it,” Alvarado added. “I thought he would have a stronger kick shortening up in distance.”
Following a nine-month break, Ocala Dream made his 3-year-old debut with a third-place finish in a 1-mile maiden special weight at Belmont on April 23. After winning at 1 1/16-mile last out, Ocala Dream cut back to a turf sprint for the first time in his career but aced the test, with the 3/1 selection returning $8.40 on a $2 win wager.
“We thought this distance might have been a little on the short side for him, but he broke better his last race and broke relatively well in this race,” Albrecht said. “Coming around the turn, it looked like Junior had a lot of horse. He galloped out all the way to the backstretch. We were really pleased.”
Ocala Dream, bred in New York by Mahwinney Liberman, Beglin and Coutsodontis, more than doubled his career earnings to $137,600.
“He had a very nice trip from Junior,” said Juan Bernardini, assistant to Morley. “This horse has been improving and with each race is getting better and better. He has so much class.”
Step Dancer, trained by Barclay Tagg and ridden by Dylan Davis, bested Barrage by a 1/2-length for second.
“I think we were a little compromised with the 7/8 going in, and then on top of that the outside post was tough,” Davis said. “He’s a very nice horse. I did the best I could with saving ground and I was happy with where I was at in the two-path. I was able to find a seam in between. 7/8 is just a little on the short side for him. He’s a very nice horse and when he stretches out again, he’s going to be very tough.”
Devious Mo finished fourth, with It’s Gravy, Dancing Buck, The King Cheek, Hold the Salsa, Jacks American Pie, Market Alert, and Dreamer’s Disease completing the order of finish.
Thunderbird Cafe scratched, as did main-track only entrants Sinful Dancer and Gods Will. King Moonracer was scratched at the starting gate.
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