ELMONT, NY – Gold Square’s Wendell Fong struck paydirt on Sunday, splashing home for his first career stakes score in the $100,000 Gold Fever Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking from the outside of the five-horse field at 8/1 odds under Jorge Vargas, Jr., Wendell Fong was content to run off the pace while Call Paul led through opening fractions of :21.81 and :44.69. Tipped out to run widest of all down the stretch, Wendell Fong dug down and began reeling in the pacesetter. Though he ran erratically to get there, the Jeremiah Englehart trainee was able to surpass Call Paul in deep stretch before clearing away late. Wendell Fong’s winning time for the 6-furlong sprint over the sloppy (sealed) main track was 1:10.06.
“It was a long trip, but it was worth it in the end,” said Vargas, Jr., who traveled from Maryland to retain the mount. “This little horse is so smart. He’s still playful and a little immature, but he’s so smart and does whatever you want him to do. I’m just really grateful. He has shown ability and I think he’s going to keep going forward.”
After succumbing to the winner, Call Paul fell 2 1/2 lengths behind but still held second over Releasethethunder. The 1/2 favorite Much Better never took to the slop and tired midway through the far turn before finishing a well-beaten fourth, outkicking only Sombeyay to complete the order of finish. Kosciuszko and Mount Travers were both trainer scratches.
Wendell Fong’s win was his third in four career starts, though it was his first away from Laurel Park, and increased his career bankroll to $107,740. The 3-year-old son of Flat Out will likely target the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park or the Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown for his next start.
“I like to train him at Laurel, he seems to get over that track well,” Englehart said. “All in all, it was a good day. There was a nice little pace up front and I thought Call Paul ran a heck of a race. It seemed like he came out of the race well and in pretty good shape.”
Wendell Fong returned $18 to win, $5.40 to place, and $7.30 to show. Call Paul brought back $3.40 to place and $3.90 to show, while Releasethethunder paid $9 to show. The disparity in the show pool payouts was due to a plunge on Much Better, who finished off the board.