ELMONT, N.Y. — Race favorite Caravel took advantage of the newly shortened distance of the Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental, scampering home to win the six-furlong turf dash for older fillies and mares in wire-to-wire fashion on Friday at Belmont Park.
A turf sprinter brimming with ability, Caravel got back on the beam on Friday for her new connections – trainer Brad Cox and owners Qatar Racing, Marc Detampel, and Madaket Stables – after faltering in the Grade 2 Turf Sprint on May 6 at Churchill Downs last out. The ownership group purchased the Mizzen Mast mare for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale in 2021 despite Caravel’s form declining sharply at the end of her 4-year-old campaign, but she no doubt got back to her best races on Friday.
Breaking from post 5 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons, Caravel shot to the front of the Intercontinental, formerly run at seven furlongs on the Widener Turf Course at Belmont, and rattled off moderate splits of 22.58 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.75 for the half over the firm going as she was pursued by Illegal Smile and Star Devine.
With those fractions seeming to have taken no toll on her, Caravel inched away from her pace rivals in the stretch and remained resolute on the lead all the way to the wire, which she hit in 1:07.59 having maintained a one-length advantage over Star Devine, who just nipped a hard-charging Jouster by a nose for runner-up honors.
“I was a little bit [surprised to see her on the lead],” said Cox. “I thought maybe there’d be one or two in front of her. When they broke, I couldn’t find her early. I saw the eight horse [Assertive Style] had one beat and I was like well, we’re inside the eight…so we’ve got to be close. Then she kind of placed herself in front and I thought it was a good spot. I saw the 22 and whatever and it was comfortable enough and left her enough to finish up with.”
The victory was a return to her winning ways for Caravel, who began the year with a synthetic score in the Queen at Turfway Park before taking a step back in the Turf Sprint. No stranger to success on the NYRA circuit, the gray mare won the Grade 3 Caress at Saratoga Race Course last summer, which capped off a three-race win streak for former trainer Elizabeth Merryman.
“She’s been doing really well throughout the second half of the winter – when she ran at Turfway she was doing really well,” said Cox. “I only worked her four times, five times maybe before the Turfway race. It was one of those deals where she had some experience on synthetic and I thought let’s just use this. She’s a filly that doesn’t carry a lot of weight, so therefore I thought if we could get a run into her, then we could circle back to Keeneland or wait for Churchill. She ran well enough at Turfway to warrant a little more time. She was training well enough to give us the confidence to try the boys [in the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint]. It didn’t work out, but nobody was kicking down the inside at Churchill at all. I think she showed today she’s one of the best in the division.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by Elizabeth Merryman, Caravel returned $7.90 on a $2 win wager and bumped her bankroll to $563,777.
Despite having to settle for bridesmaid status again in her nascent 4-year-old season for trainer Jorge Abreu and owner Lawrence Goichman, Star Devine continues to signal that she’s a filly on the improve. As a sophomore, the daughter of Fastnet Rock turned heads in her debut victory at Aqueduct and took the Galway at Saratoga to close out an abridged campaign, but she’s come back even stronger in 2022 with a runner-up finish in the Giant’s Causeway on April 16 at Keeneland to go along with today’s result.
Just on Star Devine’s heels, a turnback in distance has clearly agreed with Jouster, who finished a tough-luck sixth in the Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland in her initial turf-sprint try before rallying strongly to get third in the Intercontinental, both efforts coming with Flavien Prat aboard for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
Trainer Christophe Clement’s Lady Edith put in a strong run in the stretch, appearing at points as though she were destined for victory before flattening out late and settling for fourth, a head behind Jouster. The pace-pressing Illegal Smile checked in fifth, a neck ahead of Assertive Style, who was followed home by Tobys Heart, Miss J McKay, Flower Point, Miss Majorette and Nevisian Sunrise.
Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont Park with a 13-race Belmont Stakes Day card boasting eight Grade 1 events, highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. First post is 11:20 a.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the spring/summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
NYRA Press Office
Photo of Caravel by Chelsea Durand