Royal Posse Wins Biggest Race on Empire Showcase Day
Saturday was a big day at Belmont, which featured eight New York-bred stakes races. Heavy rains caused a number of scratches, but 53 horses still ran in those eight races and Royal Posse won the richest race; the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap.
Rain fell throughout the day creating a sloppy track. Following the second race, the jockeys met with management to voice concerns about the condition of the track. But the track maintenance crew went over the surface before the Iroquois Stakes. The jockeys rode that race and then agreed to ride the remainder of the card.
Royal Posse was the day’s biggest winner, hitting his stride in the slop down the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. Off at 3-1 odds, he paid $7.90 to win with race favorite Governor Malibu closing hard to finish second. Royal Posse has now finished first or second in 13 straight races since being claimed by trainer Rudy Rodguez for owner Michael Dubb. He’s won seven of those starts and picked up $180,000 for winning the Empire Classic.
He’s a very, very game horse,” Rodriguez said. “When I see him close to the pace I was like ‘wow.’ He wants to run all day. You got to give a lot of credit to Irad, because he didn’t take him back.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. teamed with Rodriguez to win the $250,000 Maid Of The Mist for 2-year-old fillies with Bonita Springs, the 6-5 favorite. She won by 5 1/4 lengths.
The program, billed as Empire Showcase Day, saw New York-breds take center stage with the following additional results.
Bar of Gold was the dominant winner of the day, taking the $250,000 Empire Distaff by 18 lengths as the 4/5 favorite. She paid $3.70 to win, improving to 5 for 5 against New York breds, all on wet tracks.
- Pat On the Back pulled a 20-1 upset in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow 2-year-olds, returning $43.20 to win.
- Brother O’Connell edged Tapitation by a neck in the $200,000 Mohawk. He paid $11.20 to win.
- Old Harbor, sixth in the race last year, rebounded to take the $200,000 Ticonderoga for fillies and mares. She paid $7.80 to win.
- Quezon, the 1/5 favorite, took the $150,000 Iroquois for filly and mare sprinters by 5 1/4 lengths, paying $2.50 to win.
- Breakin the Fever beat 2/5 choice Weekend Hideaway by a half-length in the $150,000 Hudson for sprinters, paying $8.30 to win.