Firenze Fire Sharp In Seasonal Debut, Takes Runhappy Stakes For Second Time

Making his first start since a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream Park in December, Mr. Amore Stable’s Firenze Fire tracked pacesetter Chateau through the opening five furlongs, then took command inside the eighth pole en route to a 3 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Runhappy Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., the Kelly Breen-trained 6-year-old Florida-bred by Poseidon’s Warrior traveled six furlongs in 1:09.76 and paid $3.80 as the favorite in the field of five seasoned older runners.

Chateau, the 7-5 second wagering choice who set fractions of :22.59, :45.51 and :57.48 under Kendrick Carmouche, easily held second by three-quarters of a length, with Town Classic edging Stan the Man in a photo for third. Drafted trailed the field. Going into the Runhappy, the five runners had each averaged 32 career starts.

“I knew the other horse [Chateau] was going to go and no one else was going to be close with him, so I decided to be close and not have to be in a rush,” said Ortiz. “It’s only six furlongs. I didn’t want to let him relax too much and then make a run from the three-eighths pole. I just let him be closer and waited as long as I could to start going.

 

“When I asked him, he responded really well. The tank was full. He kept coming and kept moving forward. He feels great. I think this is going to be a good year for him. He can be right there in the conversation with all the good sprinters.”

Firenze Fire was winning for the 13th time in 32 starts and has won graded stakes at 2, 3, 5 and now 6. This was his second Runhappy Stakes victory, the first coming in 2019 when the race was not yet graded. The Runhappy was upgraded to Grade 3 in 2020 but was not held because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to March 2020, Firenze Fire was trained by Jason Servis, who is now facing federal criminal charges in connection with the FBI probe into racehorse doping.

Since joining Breen’s stable, Firenze Fire has won three of eight starts, including a pair of G2 races at Belmont, the True North and Vosburgh Invitational.

“There were a couple other races we could have pointed towards; the undercard of the Derby [G1 Churchill Downs], this race or a race over at Pimlico, but Ron [owner Ron Lombardi] said let’s go to his home track at Belmont,” said Breen. “There’s no such thing as a soft spot. We locked up Irad [Ortiz, Jr.]. All the things just kept on clicking.

“The horse wintered well in Florida,” Breen added. “They took good care of him. He shipped up here and got to breeze a couple times right out of his stall. We didn’t have to ship. Everything worked out to plan and it doesn’t always work out that well.

“In the paddock, he looked very picturesque. Maybe a tad bit heavy,” Breen said. “That happens to us when we get older.”

“He broke well. He sat right there and ran a very professional race. The horse that was in front [Chateau] is a nice horse and has been running well and is in form. We’re coming off a layoff and I was definitely concerned about him getting away from us, but we showed up.”

Breen said the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar will be the year-end goal for Firenze Fire.

“I’ll assume at the end of the year he’ll be going to stud, but Ron loves running in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint,” said Breen. “One day at a time and I’m happy he came back as strong as he did. He looked great.”

The post Firenze Fire Sharp In Seasonal Debut, Takes Runhappy Stakes For Second Time appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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