The Christophe Clement-trained Decorated Invader continued his steady ascent to the top of the 3-year-old turf division with an authoritative 4 ¾-length victory in the Grade 2, $150,000 Pennine Ridge on Saturday at Belmont Park over five rivals.
The sixth running of the Pennine Ridge, contested at a mile on Belmont’s Widener turf course, was carded as the second of six graded stakes on the loaded 12-race program.
A son of Declaration of War, Decorated Invader showed a good deal of promise as a 2-year-old, including a Grade 1 win in the Summer at Woodbine and a fast-closing fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf to close out the year, but took noticeable steps forward as a sophomore. The bay colt came from far back to win the Cutler Bay by 1 ¼ lengths in his 2020 debut in May at Gulfstream Park and then showed a completely new dimension in the Pennine Ridge.
Breaking from the rail with Joel Rosario aboard, Decorated Invader put himself just off the early pace set by Proven Strategies. As the pacesetter ambled along through leisurely splits of 23.86 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.50 for the half, and three-quarters 1:10.61 for three-quarters over firm turf, Decorated Invader tracked him intently in third while covered.
Proven Strategies angled out a bit around the far turn, allowing Rosario and Decorated Invader to quickly seize the opportunity, surging through the vacated inside path and vying for the lead as the field turned for home. The pair soon wrested control away from the frontrunner, and from there they opened up decisively, bounding down the stretch to complete the distance in a snappy 1:33.66.
“He’s very classy,” Rosario said. “The pace was OK, but not too fast. He was there for me and so relaxed, so I just let him be there [closer up] because it looked like there was no pace up front. I made a move before the turn and I saw the horse inside [Proven Strategies] come off the rail a little bit, go in and out, and I wasn’t sure what he was doing. I let him go inside and started working from there.”
Decorated Invader, owned in partnership by West Point Thoroughbreds, William Freeman, William Sandbrook and Cheryl Manning, bumped his bankroll to $370,535 with the victory. As the odds-on favorite, he returned $3.20 on a $2 win wager.
Clement was content to bask in the victory and marvel at his talented 3-year-old.
“I’ve always liked him since Day 1 and I think he’s been a tremendous horse since the beginning,” said Clement. “He’s been a top-class horse even last year. He was very unlucky in the Breeders’ Cup. He won a Grade 1 in Canada. He won at Gulfstream this year. He won one today and I think he’s good enough to do a mile, a mile and a quarter. I could be wrong, but I think he’ll stay.”
Proven Strategies held well for second, finishing 1 ¾ lengths in front of third-place finisher Mr. Kringle, who closed from the back of the compact field to nab blacktype. Vanzzy, Famished, and Venezuelan Hug completed the order of finish. Maroon Maniac was scratched.
Saturday’s stakes action at Belmont Park will culminate with the 152nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes in Race 10 at 5:42 p.m. Eastern. The American Classic, contested as the first leg of the Triple Crown this year, will see a 10-horse field led by morning-line favorite Tiz the Law looking to become the first New York-bred to win the Belmont since 1882. NBC will have live coverage starting at 2:45 p.m.
NYRA Press Release
Photo NYRA Susie Raisher