Odds-on favorite Lunar Victory outkicked a game Saratoga Snacks in a dramatic stretch duel and hit the wire 1 1/2 lengths in front to take Saturday’s $250,000 Empire Classic, the centerpiece of New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park.
Carrying the colors of Juddmonte Farms – which earlier in the day at Ascot Racecourse saw its homebred Frankel close out his career with a perfect 14-for-14 record – Lunar Victory raced in midpack as Saratoga Snacks carried the field of eight New York-breds through an opening half mile in 46.61 seconds.
The 5-year-old son of Speightstown drew alongside the pacesetter on the turn and the two straightened for home in tandem, with Lunar Victory prevailing after a spirited tussle to the final sixteenth.
“[Lunar Victory] broke really good and then I just tried to settle him down and relax because I knew there would be a little speed in the race,” said winning jockey Junior Alvarado. “He has so much class, though, turning for home I just tried to stay away from [Saratoga Snacks] and he gave me a nice kick at the end.”
Lunar Victory extended his American record to 6-2 in eight starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who earned his first victory in the race, one of seven stakes on the card for New York-breds.
“[Juddmonte] is still celebrating Frankel, I believe,” said Mott with a smile. “You know what, they pay attention to all of them, so I’m sure they’re happy to have this one.”
It’s Tricky ends career
Godolphin Racing’s multiple Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky has been retired with an injury to her right hind ankle, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin announced Saturday afternoon.
The 4-year-old Mineshaft filly sustained the beginnings of a condylar fracture to the ankle during a bullet five-furlong breeze Thursday morning as she prepared for the Breeders’ Cup next month at Santa Anita, said the trainer.
“She worked well and the next morning when we went to look at her, she had heat and inflammation in her right hind ankle,” said McLaughlin. “No surgery will be required. We just have to stop on her and at this point, she’ll go on to her new career as a mother.”
First, second or third in all but one of her 14 career starts, It’s Tricky notched her first Grade 1 victory in last June’s TVG Acorn at Belmont Park and a month later added a second in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course.
“She was a real star,” said McLaughlin of the filly, who had her quirks and often proved difficult to saddle early in her career. “Even though she was tricky, she was a barn favorite.”
McLaughlin said It’s Tricky, who retired with a record of 8-4-1 with earnings of $1,666,500, would depart for Lexington, Ky., in a week or so.