Emmanuel Resolute in Capturing G3 Poker by a Neck

June 10, 2023

Emmanuel gets his neck in front to prevail in the Poker (Susie Raisher)

By Brian Bohl – NYRA Press Office

ELMONT, N.Y.— Siena Farm and WinStar Farm’s Emmanuel showed determination when turning for home, closing strong from the outside to run down Filo Di Arianna near the wire and prevailing by a neck to capture the Grade 3, $200,000 Poker for 4-year-olds and up on the Widener turf on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes Day card at Belmont Park.

The 38th running of the Poker, one of nine graded stakes on Saturday’s card, saw Emmanuel post a victory going one mile for the first time since his debut victory on the Gulfstream Park main track in December 2021 for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

Under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., Emmanuel tracked in last-of-6 with Filo Di Arianna leading the field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.94 seconds, the half in 47.82 and three-quarters in 1:11.42 over the firm going.

Emmanuel, who started his 4-year-old campaign with consecutive Grade 3 wins at 1 1/16-miles in the Tampa Bay and the Canadian Turf, made a bid for a return winner’s circle visit, as Ortiz, Jr. coaxed him with clear daylight to the outside in the final furlong. The More Than Ready colt passed three rivals in deep stretch and overtook Filo Di Arianna in the final sixteenth, hitting the wire in 1:34.25 to notch his sixth victory in 11 career starts.

The Brazilian-bred Filo Di Arianna, trained by fellow Hall of Famer Mark Casse and ridden by Luis Saez, bested 2-5 favorite and French-bred Chez Pierre by a half length for runner-up status. Anaconda, Dreams of Tomorrow and Emaraaty completed the order of finish. Mackinnon scratched, as did main-track only entrant Bourbon Calling.

Off at 6-1, Emmanuel, bred by Helen K. Groves Revocable Trust, paid $14.40 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career earnings to $587,950.

Ortiz, Jr. said Emmanuel relished a cut back in distance from his last start when third in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Dinner Party on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course.

Emmanuel determined in the Poker (Chelsea Durand)

“He broke good and I knew some horses had more speed than me,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “I just wanted to get him in a good spot. Last time, you see the fractions, they went a little quick [in the Dinner Party]. He went fast and kept fighting that day from the eighth-pole. Today, he was perfect. The mile flat suits him perfect here at Belmont.”

After winning his first two races this year, Emmanuel ran seventh in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile in April at Keeneland before rebounding with his third in the nine-furlong Dinner Party at Pimlico on Preakness Day. He improved to 2-for-2 at Belmont following a victory in the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge last June. The Kentucky-bred has finished on the board in eight of his 11 career starts.

“He ran great at Pimlico and seemed to come out of it well. We were targeting this race with Annapolis, but when he couldn’t make it, it didn’t look like this race was coming up a large field,” Pletcher said. “So, I told Elliott [Walden, CEO of owner WinStar Farm], ‘What do you think of taking a look at this race?’ And he said, ‘Let’s take a look at it.’ Once he drew in the race, we felt like he fit well and he was sharp and doing well.

A trip to the winner’s circle in store for Emmanuel (Susie Raisher)

“Irad said in Baltimore, he was in the clear the whole way,” Pletcher added. “It was a mile and an eighth and he was kind of pulling more than you’d like. Today, he was able to get him a little more settled and use that big run.”

Pletcher said the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 12 at Saratoga Race Course, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita, remains a possibility for Emmanuel’s next start.

Filo Di Arianna was making just his second start of he year after returning from an eight-month respite to run second in an optional claimer going 5 1/2 furlongs over Woodbine’s all-weather track in April. With that first race back, Casse stretched out the 7-year-old, who appreciated the distance and has now finished first or second in nine of his 11 career starts (7-2-0).

“It was a good trip,” said Filo Di Arianna jockey Luis Saez. “Broke good, got into a great spot and tried hard. He was the speed in the race. He came from shorter [distances], and he broke sharply and was right there.

“He was very comfortable,” Saez continued. “Actually, when he came to the straight he really tried pretty hard. But in the end, got caught. He tried really hard.”

Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont with an 11-race card featuring the $150,000 Jersey Girl for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs on the main track in Race 5 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Wonder Again for sophomore fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

If you have not read this piece, you’re an idiot. Awesome read for all horse racing fans. twitter.com/pastthewire/st…

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