Belmont hosted an 11-race all New York-bred card Saturday with eight stakes races worth a total of $1.75 million. While the Empire-breds certainly put on a show, it was Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano who stole the spotlight, winning three races and scoring his 5,000th win in the process aboard Runaway Lute (Midnight Lute) in the Hudson H. He also piloted Mohawk S. victor Offering Plan (Spring at Last) and Ticonderoga S. heroine Fifty Five (Get Stormy).
“I’m thankful to all the owners and trainers who have helped me get to this point, as well as my wonderful wife. She supports me, as well as my kids, it’s not an easy job,” said Castellano. “I’ve had a successful career–four Eclipse Awards, being a Hall of Fame inductee–but I don’t feel that I’m toward the end. I still have goals, number one is to win the Kentucky Derby. I’m very proud to be in the company I am with 5,000 winners.”
Favored Pat On the Back (Congrats) won the day’s feature race, the $300,000 Empire Classic H., by 1 1/2 lengths over a late rallying Can You Diggit (Tiznow). Four-time stakes winner Bonita Bianca (Curlin), victress of the Maid of the Mist S. on this card as a juvenile in 2016, romped in the female feature, the $250,000 Empire Distaff H., finishing six lengths clear of a late-rallying Split Time (Take Charge Indy).
The Linda Rice-trained Surge of Pride (Kantharos) took to the dirt with aplomb, charging home to a 15-1 upset in the Maid of the Mist S. for 2-year-old fillies. Steve Asmussen pupil Bankit became the second stakes winner for his freshman sire Central Banker with a 5 3/4-length score in the juvenile colts race, the Sleepy Hollow S.
Chester and Mary Broman’s four-time graded stakes victress Highway Star (Girolamo) rounded out the days stakes winners with a narrow success in a strong renewal of the Iroquois S. The Bromans are also the breeders and part owners of Surge of Pride.
“When I go home tonight, I’ll be looking at the calendar for when this date is next year,” said Michael Dubb, part-owner of Bonita Bianca and Offering Plan. “It’s the greatest day. There’s probably more New York people here today than any other day. The track is busy. It’s one of the best betting cards. It’s really nice to see all of our New York brethren who work so hard come out and have the opportunity to compete.”