With Sheldon Russell in the irons, Legendary was content to run in third, just a few lengths behind Plainview, through a half-mile.
Moving up on the turn, the 5-year-old Legendary turned for home in full stride and quickly took command.
“It was a perfect set up,” said Russell, who rode legendary to win the Japan Racing Association Stakes at Laurel Park on September 6. “As long as he’s on the outside, he comes home real good. Being from England, he’d run on softer courses, so I knew today wasn’t going to be a problem for him.”
It was the third victory in as many starts at Belmont Park for Legendary, who took a first-level allowance in May and added an optional claiming victory over a similarly yielding course in July.
He then finished in a dead heat for third in the Lure at Saratoga Race Course before winning the Japan Racing Association Stakes.
“This horse won my first stake a month ago,” said Niall Saville, who trains the gelded son of Exceed and Excel for former jockey great Walter Swiburn. “I was a little nervous with the long stretch here, but they weren’t catching him.”
Legendary, who began his career in Great Britain and made his North American debut in April at Keeneland Race Course, enhanced his record to 6-5-2 from 19 career starts.
The winner’s purse of $120,000 extended his earnings to $293,219.
“It’s a huge honor to train for Walter Swinburn, and for them to send me a horse like this it’s just been great,” said Saville. “I’d won at Saratoga Race Course and at Aqueduct Racetrack, but until this year I hadn’t gotten it done at Belmont. This race had been the goal.”
(Jenny Kellner) La Tia goes wire-to-wire
La Tia turned her first trip to New York into a winning one, grabbing the lead right at the start and holding on for a narrow victory in the 37th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia on Sunday at Belmont Park.
With Joel Rosario aboard, the 5-year-old Illinois-bred daughter of City Place took command coming out of the gate.
Swinging into the stretch, La Tia came under pressure from Byrama and Overhead a furlong out, but held on to preserve the victory and hit the wire a neck in front.
“I was a little concerned with it having rained here, but she ran well on a good course last time, and when I saw the [other] speed horse [Nashly’s Vow] was scratched, I felt better,” said Ardmando de la Cerda, who trains La Tia for Salvador Hernandez.
The victory was the third in seven starts and first on turf this year for La Tia, who entered the Athenia off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Canadian on September 14 over a “good” turf course at Woodbine.
Earlier in the year, the Chicago-based mare won a pair of Grade 3 stakes on synthetic surfaces, taking the Grade 3 Arlington Matron and the Grade 3 Ontario Matron.
“I was very confident with her today and knew she was going to give me 100 percent,” Rosario said.
The winner’s purse of $120,000 enhanced her bankroll to $703,326.
(Jenny Kellner) Looking Ahead
This Saturday is Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park. All races that day will feature New York-bred horses competing in eight stakes races for close to $2 million in prize money.
Sunday will feature the first running of the Bowl Game, 1 1/4 on turf for three-year-olds and up with a purse of $100,000.