By Steve Sherack
ELMONT, NY – Three weeks after capturing his first American Classic victory, trainer Mark Casse made the trip to New York with a fantastic shot at adding Saturday’s 151st renewal of the GI Belmont S. He got the job done–maybe just not with the horse that everyone was expecting, though.
Tracy Farmer homebred Sir Winston (Awesome Again), a rallying second in the local prep GIII Peter Pan S. with a field-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure, pulled off a 10-1 upset with a one-length, come-from-behind victory under a brilliant ride by Joel Rosario before an announced crowd of 56,217 on a picturesque, sun-splashed afternoon on Long Island.
Highly regarded Juddmonte homebred Tacitus (Tapit), favored at 9-5 off a very strong third via disqualification in the GI Kentucky Derby, completed the exacta after enduring a very wide trip. The pacesetting Joevia (Shanghai Bobby), a front-running winner in the slop of Monmouth’s Long Branch S. May 12, held on well for third at 21-1 over a surface playing very kindly to speed throughout the weekend.
War of Will (War Front), well-supported as the 7-2 second choice following a dominating victory in the GI Preakness S. for Casse, tired in the stretch to finish ninth. He was the only sophomore to contest all three legs of this year’s Triple Crown.
“He’s an amazing little horse,” Casse said of the over achieving Sir Winston. “If at this time last year, if you had asked me to rate our top-20 2-year-olds, he would have been about 16th or 17th. But I’m very proud of him because he’s kind of what our operation represents, and that is I feel like we develop horses. I have this philosophy. I start every horse out thinking that they are going to win the Kentucky Derby, or the Oaks. That’s what I do. And I will try different surfaces; I will try different methods. With a horse like Sir Winston, you know, it paid off there.”
Sir Winston broke well from post seven in the “Test of the Champion” and was expertly guided to the golden rail by Rosario–also aboard 2014 Belmont hero Tonalist who spoiled California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid–to race in a ground-saving eighth as Joevia was kept honest by Tax (Arch) through fractions of :23.92 and :48.79 over the very lively surface.
Always traveling nicely on the inside, Sir Winston crept closer entering the far turn as Tacitus began to launch a five-wide sweep. Locked and loaded as Joevia and Tax were going at it at the top of the stretch, Rosario tipped Sir Winston out three deep into the lane and he closed with a rush to outkick Tacitus home to pull off the upset.
“He’s a very nice horse and you have to let him do this thing,” Rosario said. “It seemed like he didn’t mind [being] inside. I just took my time with him. For the distance, he broke very good. Today, he was a little closer, so I let him be where he was comfortable.”
Sir Winston entered the Belmont with only two career victories to his credit, both over the Woodbine synthetic, dead-heating for a maiden win last September and adding the Display S. in December. Last term’s GIII Grey S. third-place finisher quietly ran well in defeat finishing with late interest to finish fourth in the GIII Withers S. at Aqueduct Feb. 2 and fifth in the GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby Mar. 9. A well-beaten seventh, albeit with trouble, in Keeneland’s GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Apr. 6, the chestnut bounced back with a very encouraging runner-up finish, 1 1/4 lengths behind ‘TDN Rising Star’ Global Campaign (Curlin) wih Rosario riding for the first time in the Peter Pan.
Casse said that both of his Belmont runners may target the GI Runhappy Travers S. Aug. 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
“I tell you what, they all better watch out going to a mile-and-a-quarter because Sir Winston will come running, too,” Casse said. “You didn’t see the real War of Will today. I know that. So, we’ve got to get back and figure out what’s up and why he didn’t run better. [We’ll] probably send him back to Kentucky [and] give him a little break.”
Longtime owner Tracy Farmer, who’s black-and-white silks have been carried by standouts such as Albert the Great and Commentator, was under the weather and didn’t attend the races Saturday.
“He’s actually better, but just wasn’t able to fly,” Casse said. “It’s a shame, because I know he loves running in New York, and I know this race will mean everything to him. Crazily enough, this is one of the first horses I ever trained for him. He’s very good friends with [John] Oxley. [Farmer] and his wife, Carol, and Mr. Oxley kept saying, ‘You should give Mark a horse. You should give Mark a horse.'”
Farmer and Casse also teamed up Thursday with Astoria S. runner-up Perfect Alibi (Sky Mesa).
Tacitus, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby and GII Wood Memorial S., lost little in defeat.
“He came running and finished up the race good, but it looked like he just got going too late,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who also saddled this year’s Kentucky Derby winner Country House (Lookin At Lucky). “We did have a bit of a wide trip, which you never like. He came running and looked like he was traveling better than anybody. We planned to try and be in contention at the quarter-pole and he was. He just couldn’t get there.”
Sir Winston becomes the 14th Grade I winner for Awesome Again, who is also the sire of GI Preakness S. winner and Belmont S. runner-up Oxbow as well as GI Haskell winner and narrow Belmont S. runner-up Paynter. Sir Winston, a second-generation Farmer homebred, is out of GSW & GISP La Gran Bailadora (Afleet Alex). The 12-year-old is also responsible for the 2-year-old filly La Isadora (Ghostzapper), who RNA’d for just $30,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale. She was bred to both Practical Joke and Classic Empire for the 2019 season. Farmer purchased Sir Winston’s second dam SW & GSP Affirmed Dancer (Affirmed) as a weanling for $150,000 at Keeneland November in 1999. Sir Winston’s third dam is two-time Canadian champion Woolloomooloo (Regal Intention).
Saturday, Belmont Park
BELMONT S. PRESENTED BY NYRA BETS-GI, $1,500,000, Belmont, 6-8, 3yo, 1 1/2m, 2:28.30, ft.
1–SIR WINSTON, 126, c, 3, by Awesome Again
1st Dam: La Gran Bailadora (GSW & GISP, $338,416), by Afleet Alex
2nd Dam: Affirmed Dancer, by Affirmed
3rd Dam: Woolloomooloo, by Regal Intention
*1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I WIN. ($50,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O/B-Tracy Farmer (KY); T-Mark E Casse; J-Joel Rosario. $800,000. Lifetime Record: 10-3-1-1, $961,773. Werk Nick Rating: B. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Tacitus, 126, c, 3, Tapit–Close Hatches, by First Defence. O/B-Juddmonte Farms Inc (KY); T-William I Mott. $280,000.
3–Joevia, 126, c, 3, Shanghai Bobby–Peace Process, by War Front. ($34,000 RNA Wlg ’16 KEENOV; $50,000 Ylg ’17 FTKJUL; $32,000 2yo ’18 OBSAPR). O-Michael & Jeff Fazio; B-Ikhana Farm (KY); T-Gregory D Sacco. $150,000.
Margins: 1, 3/4, 1. Odds: 10.20, 1.95, 21.60.
Also Ran: Tax, Master Fencer (Jpn), Spinoff, Everfast, Intrepid Heart, War of Will, Bourbon War.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.