Mr. Buff Strikes Again To Lead Empire Showcase Day Winners

Chester and Mary Broman’s Mr. Buff got back on track to take the $175,000 Empire Classic Handicap in front-running fashion for the second straight year, putting the finishing touches on a thrilling day of New York-bred stakes action on Saturday’s annual Empire Showcase Day card at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

Winning trainer John Kimmel praised the Bromans for their continued support of his barn and the New York-bred program, which shined on Saturday with eight stakes worth $1.2 million.

“They have been with me since their inception in the thoroughbred game,” said Kimmel. “They’ve been big supporters and sent me a lot of top well-bred New York-breds over the years.

“They have really taken the New York-bred program to another level,” added Kimmel. “No one has done what he’s done and bred his mares to the best stallions in the marketplace – Tapit, Storm Cat, American Pharoah, Justify – he’s really tried to prove that you can raise a good horse in New York.”

A hard-knocking 6-year-old, Mr. Buff began 2020 with smashing wins in the Jazil and Haynesfield at Aqueduct, the latter of which was a 20-length tour de force against state-breds that netted him a sparkling 106 Beyer Speed Figure, but he was well beaten in each of his last two starts. His disappointing results in the Grade 1 Whitney and Grade 2 Suburban this summer led to many jumping off his bandwagon in the 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic for 3-year-olds and up on the main track, as he was sent off as a distant 7-2 second choice in the wagering.

Breaking from post 2 with regular rider Junior Alvarado aboard, Mr. Buff broke sharply and went out to lead the field through sensible splits of 23.50 seconds for the opening quarter mile, 47.56 for the half, and 1:11.50 for three-quarters, and while he readily yielded a soft lead in the stretch of the Whitney in his most recent outing, he had no such trouble on Saturday as he powered home a 3 1/4-length winner over a talented group of late-runners.

Mr. Buff completed the distance in 1:48.75 and returned $9.40 on a $2 win wager, and the win gave the millionaire his 15th victory from 40 career starts for the Bromans, who also bred the Friend Or Foe gelding.

“He’s a 17.1 [hands] horse with a huge stride length,” said Kimmel. “The key is to get to the top of the lane and switch to his outside lead turning for home. I knew then it was over and there was no way they were going to beat him at that point.”

Alvarado said he was determined to make Mr. Buff’s challengers work for a shot at defeating the defending champ.

“The big horse is back. I couldn’t be any happier for him. I really wanted to do it for him. He deserves it. He’s the best older New York-bred,” said Alvarado. “I like him when he takes a hold of the bridle. That’s how he likes to be ridden. I just got out of there running. I wasn’t intending to get to the lead. I just wanted to get him out of there going forward and take my position, whatever it will be.

“He’s a horse that can go 22 and 45, too, but I just gunned him out of there to get a good position,” continued Alvarado. “If anyone else wanted the lead they were going to have to work hard to get it, I wasn’t going to give it to them easily today.”

Bankit came out on top of the host of pursuers that lined up to take their shots at Mr. Buff in the stretch of the Empire Classic. The son of Central Banker trained by Steve Asmussen had similarly gone off form in recent starts after a promising start to his 4-year-old campaign, but he closed strongly on the inside and finished a clear second by three lengths over Sea Foam.

Heavy favorite Funny Guy had to settle for fourth in his return to the statebred ranks. The John Terranova trainee had previously beaten Mr. Buff in the Commentator on June 12 at Belmont and won the John Morrissey at Saratoga against New York-breds, but he couldn’t get back to his best form in the Empire Classic and finished a neck behind Sea Foam.

Winston’s Chance, Chestertown, and Evaluator completed the order of finish. Our Last Buck was scratched.

In the $175,000 Empire Distaff for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the class-dropping Lucky Move turned heads with an impressive sustained rally around the far turn that propelled her to victory for trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero and owner Ten Strike Racing.

A 6-year-old daughter of Lookin At Lucky, Lucky Move had been a frequent visitor to the New York-bred ranks over the winter at Aqueduct Racetrack, but the remainder of her 2020 campaign was spent in open company stakes races, which produced a win in the Obeah at Delaware Park in late spring. Despite her credentials, she was sent off at 4-1 in the Empire Distaff and fittingly made a four-wide blitz under Irad Ortiz, Jr. around the turn to seize control of the lead in upper stretch, with enough left in the tank to hold off a late-charging Mrs. Orb for a 1 3/4-length victory.

Bred by Maltese Cross Stables and Stonegate Stables, Lucky Move returned $10.40 as the third choice in the wagering and completed the distance 1:43.36.

Fellow 6-year-old mare and race favorite Ratajkowski finished fourth, just behind Makingcents in third. Singular Sensation, Forever Changed, and Critical Value completed the order of finish.

Trainer Daniel Velazquez made a splash on Empire Showcase Day taking the first two stakes on the card, which were also the first two stakes scores of the young conditioner’s career.

Laobanonaprayer kicked off the stakes action on Empire Showcase Day with an emphatic upset in the $150,000 Maid of the Mist for 2-year-old fillies at a mile on the main track, which she won by 5 1/2 lengths at odds of 8-1.

Owned and trained by the mid-Atlantic based horseman Velazquez, Laobanonaprayer entered the race as a maiden but surged to an easy win in the stretch after settling off the early pace and drafting behind runners around the turn before being tipped into the clear by jockey Kendrick Carmouche turning for home.

Laobanonaprayer, a daughter of Laoban bred by Christina Deronda, completed the distance in 1:38.06 and returned $19.20 on a $2 win wager. Her breakthrough score happened to coincide with her donning blinkers for the first time in her young career.

Co-favorite Frost Me finished second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Chasing Cara, who was followed home by Party At Page’s, Infringement, and Mashnee Girl. Cara’s Dreamer was scratched.

Velazquez, who saddled his first winner in 2009, waited 11 years to notch his first career stakes win but needed a little more than a half hour to record his second stakes victory when Brooklyn Strong followed his stablemate with a 2 1/4-length score in the $150,000 Sleepy Hollow for juveniles going one mile in Race 3.

Like his stablemate the race prior, Brooklyn Strong stayed off the pace before showing late speed. Eagle Orb led the seven-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.63, the half in 47.17 and three-quarters in 1:11.86.

In the stretch, Brooklyn Strong continued to close strong under Jose Ortiz, overtaking Eagle Orb in the final furlong before drawing away to complete the mile in 1:37.16.

“We came in very confident with both horses. We loved the distances for them,” said Velazquez.

“You kind of foresee it and wish it but you don’t know if it’s going to happen, but it happened,” Velazquez added about his remarkable day. “There was a lot of hard work going into this.”

Owned by Mark Schwartz and bred by Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan, Brooklyn Strong, off at 7-2, returned $9.60 and earned blacktype for a second consecutive stakes after running third in the Bertram F. Bongard on October 2 at Belmont.

Eagle Orb ran 2 1/4 lengths clear of the favorite Breadman for second. Hold the Salsa, Masked Marauder, Let’s Workout and Boss Bear completed the order of finish.

Lawrence Goichman homebred Myhartblongstodady made every pole a winning one to run her current win streak to four in the $150,000 Ticonderoga for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf in Race 4.

Trained by Jorge Abreu and perfectly piloted by Jose Lezcano, the 5-year-old Scat Daddy mare marked off moderate splits of 25.11, 51.05 and 1:14.51 with Short Pour tracking in second. The dark bay, who picked up her first stakes win last out in the Yaddo on September 4 at Saratoga, enjoyed a 2 1/2-length lead at the stretch call and despite bearing out in the stretch run extended her winning margin to three lengths in a final time of 1:44.66.

War Canoe earned place by a neck over Niko’s Dream with Wegetsdamunnys, Pecatonica and Short Pour rounding out the order of finish.

Sent to post as the even money favorite, Myhartblongstodady returned $4.20.

Ronald A Brown’s Tribecca led gate-to-wire in the 43rd running of the $125,000 Hudson going 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up in Race 7 to give Carmouche his second score of the afternoon.

Trained by Chris Englehart, the 6-year-old Bustin Stones gelding set swift splits of 22.27, 45.29 and 1:09.54 under pressure from Arthur’s Hope. Under siege from Captain Bombastic and Big Engine in the stretch run, Tribecca continued to find more and powered home a three-length winner in 1:16.01.

Bred by Laurel Least and Joseph Lech, Tribecca improved his record to 39-13-5-5.

A loaded renewal of the $150,000 Mohawk in Race 8 went to 6-5 favorite Somelikeithotbrown, who prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile turf event for 3-year-olds and up, a division that has routinely produced some of the finest performances in the New York-bred ranks.

After trainer Jimmy Bond’s Rinaldi broke on top over Belmont’s inner turf course, the speedy Somelikeithotbrown, who’s historically been at his best on the lead, was ridden aggressively to the front by Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano. Their gambit paid off handsomely as, despite carving out some taxing early fractions on a firm turf course that had some give to it, Somelikeithotbrown stayed on resolutely in the stretch to easily thwart a challenge from Therapist.

The win marked the first time Somelikeithotbrown faced fellow statebreds since he broke his maiden by eight lengths as a 2-year-old at Saratoga in August 2018. The talented son of Big Brown, bred in tandem by Hot Pink Stables and Sand Dollar Stables, won the Grade 3 Jack Ruby Steaks as a sophomore and the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at the Spa earlier this year against open company for trainer Mike Maker.

Owned by Skychai Racing LLC and David Koenig, he completed the distance in a rapid 1:42.02 and returned $4.50.

Therapist finished second, 2 1/2 lengths in front of Somelikeithotbrown’s stablemate Cross Border, whose resume entering the race was nearly as impressive as the winner’s. Dot Matrix, Sanctuary City, and Rinaldi rounded out the order of finish. Yankee Division and Opt were scratched.

Parx-shipper Collegeville Girl schooled the field in the $125,000 Iroquois in Race 9, rallying from last-of-10 heading into the turn before surging under jockey Joel Rosario in the stretch. Angled out wide in the straightaway, the 4-year-old Central Banker filly picked off rivals one-by-one before overtaking Timely Tradition in the final sixteenth and fending off Prairie Fire by a half-length.

Trained by Richard Vega, Collegeville Girl, bred by Andy Beadnell, won for the second time in three career Belmont starts, returning $48.20 as a 23-1 longshot. Owned by Robert Brittingam, Salvatore De Bunda and Wire To Wire Stable, she completed the 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up over Big Sandy in a final time of 1:16.48.

Prairie Fire, trained by Linda Rice, edged Timely Tradition by a neck for second. Officer Hutchy, Espresso Shot, Fair Regis, Bertranda, Spin a Yarn, Newly Minted and My Roxy Girl completed the order of finish.

Live racing resumes on Sunday at Belmont with a 10-race card highlighted by the Grade 3, $100,000 Athenia. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.

The post Mr. Buff Strikes Again To Lead Empire Showcase Day Winners appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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