Fire Key Sparks Floral Park Upset; Stella Di Camelot Prevails In Pebbles

Backwards Stable homebred Fire Key, sent to post at odds of 7-1, provided a minor upset with a wide-rallying effort in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Floral Park at Belmont on Saturday, a six-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upwards.

Trained by Patrick Kelly, the 5-year-old daughter of Friesan Fire, patiently piloted by Julian Pimentel, settled well off the early pace of Battle Joined before springing to life late in the lane to secure the three-quarter-length score over a yielding inner turf course. The victory marked back-to-back stakes scores for the talented dark bay mare who arrived at the Floral Park from a nose decision in the Sensible Lady Turf Dash at Laurel Park. The latter victory came on the heels of a disappointing 11th in the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga.

“We finally have things headed in the right direction,” said Kelly. “We had a rough Saratoga with the real soft turf and then we had trouble last time, so nothing you can do about that, but Fire Key bounced back.

“She ran a nice race in Maryland and even better today. She loves it here at Belmont,” continued Kelly. “She learned to relax this year, she used to speed herself, but she’s really learned to relax which helps her finish a lot stronger. She’s had some races here where the turf has been yielding. For some reason, her race this summer at Saratoga when it was soft turf she didn’t like at all and maybe it’s just a different kind of turf course up there. This is home and she had a real nice work here last Sunday and she ran back to it. She’s a nice filly.”

Battle Joined set a contested Floral Park opening quarter of 23.08 seconds under pressure from Black Canary, who flew to the front through the turn to mark the half-mile in 47.78. Fear No Evil, advancing confidently under David Cohen late in the turn, battled gamely with Black Canary to gain a brief advantage but was no match for Fire Key who found her best stride late. Fear No Evil completed the exacta 4 ¼ lengths in front of Black Canary. Fire Key covered six furlongs in 1:13.03.

Pimentel was pleased with the trip he engineered for Fire Key.

“I just wanted to get her to relax. That was most important. Sometimes she gets a little keen and wants to go early,” said Pimentel. “I wanted her to relax and make one move. She’s very capable of doing anything you want. Everything set up for her.”

Fire Key, bred in New York by her owners, banked $57,750 in victory while improving her record to 7-7-1 from 23 career starts. A Silver member of the NYRA Starter Loyalty Program, Fire Key returned $16.60. It was the third stakes win for the homebred who previously captured the Autumn Day Stakes last November at Aqueduct.

Rocky Policy, Lady Alexandra, Annie Rocks, Orecchiette, Always Thinking, Lull, Yorkiepoo Princess and Posse Needed were scratched.

One race later, Stella di Camelot overcame a slow beginning in the $200,000 Pebbles for 3-year-old fillies on the Widener turf to win her U.S. debut by 2 ¾ lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

The Irish-bred Camelot filly broke last in the field of nine under Eric Cancel, but advanced into mid-pack as Closer Still led through a quarter-mile in 23.72. Closer Still retained a narrow advantage over Andina Del Sur while Stella di Camelot moved into fourth after a half in 47.75.

Andina Del Sur took over in the far turn as Stella di Camelot launched an outside bid at the top of the stretch, seizing command at the eighth pole to kick clear under the wire. The final time for one mile was 1:38.58 on the Widener course listed as soft.

Owned by Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Kent Spellman, and Bethlehem Stables, Stella di Camelot returned $19.60 at odds of 8-1.

Andina Del Sur was a secure second, 3 ¼ lengths ahead of Victorine in third. Souper Striking, Closer Still, Altea, Got Stormy, Kitten’s Covergirl, and Monte Crista completed the order of finish. Cool Beans, Goodthingstaketime, and Significant Form scratched.

It was the third career victory for Stella di Camelot, who won a one-mile allowance in May last time out in France before transferring to Brown. The $110,000 winner’s share of the Pebbles purse improved her career earnings to $175,989.

“She broke a little slow from the gate which isn’t uncommon first time in the country with some of these horses,” said Brown. “I thought Eric did a really good job to put her right back into the race. Down the backside, he had a choice to make to go through a little tight hole there and just keep advancing and he took it. I’m real proud of this kid. He rode a great race.

“The filly ran super first time in the country. She had been training really well so I’m not surprised she ran this good,” he added. “She’s quite a nice prospect. She’s got a good turn of foot in the morning and she showed it today. I’ll get together with the partners and decide what we’re going to do next.”

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