ELMONT, NY – R. A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables’ Vekoma paddled his way swiftly through the slop and rowed his way home to champion Saturday’s $250,000 Runhappy Carter Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park.
The Carter is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Vekoma receiving an automatic berth in the Sprint at Keeneland this November.
Breaking sharply from the far outside post under Javier Castellano as the 8/5 favorite, Vekoma went straight to the front and cleared all but one of his inside rivals. Only American Anthem was able to beat the bettors’ choice to the punch, as he ran inside of Vekoma through opening fractions of :22.38 and :45.02.
Castellano allowed Vekoma to settle just off of the early pace and waited until midway through the far turn to make his move. Sweeping past American Anthem near the top of the stretch, Vekoma drew off strongly under a hand ride, pouring it on late much like the rain that fell from overhead.
The George Weaver trainee completed the 7-furlong sloppy main track sprint in a final time of 1:21.02 while crossing 7 1/4 lengths clear of his competition.
Network Effect surpassed American Anthem in deep stretch to take second by 1 1/4 lengths, while Firenze Fire nipped Nitrous by a neck for fourth. Mind Control‘s win streak snapped at three after he faded in the far turn before crossing sixth ahead of Bon Raison.
Still Having Fun completed the order of finish in a field that had three scratches: Performer, Midnightcharly, and Majestic Dunhill.
Vekoma’s win was his second straight after he won the 7-furlong Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his 2020 debut. The 4-year-old Candy Ride colt – winner of the Nashua Stakes (G3) at 2 and the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at 3 – improved his record to 7-5-0-1 with $970,525 earned.
Vekoma returned $5.30 to win, $3.30 to place, and $2.70 to show. Network Effect brought back $3.90 to place and $3 to show, while American Anthem paid $5.70 to show.