ELMONT, N.Y. – Repole Stable’s Fearless already proved he could best high-caliber competition. But the 6-year-old Ghostzapper gelding emphatically answered the outstanding question on his ability to thrive over longer distances, outkicking Warrant by 2 3/4 lengths to win Saturday’s marathon 12-furlong Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn for older horses on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park.
Fearless, who won a pair of graded stakes in his 2021 campaign with scores in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday and the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile, started 2022 with consecutive runner-up efforts going one mile in graded stakes at Gulfstream Park for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
Fearless stretched out to 1 1/8 miles and won a Grade 3 contest named for his sire on April 2 at Gulfstream before running second to Last Samurai just 21 days later at in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. That encouraged Pletcher to stretch out the Kentucky bred to 1 1/2 miles for the first time in the 133rd edition of the Brooklyn, where Fearless was content to track the pace in breaking from outermost post 7 under jockey Luis Saez.
First Constitution led the field through fractions of 24.94 seconds for the quarter-mile, 50.06 for the half, three-quarters in 1:15.15 and a mile in 1:39.41 on the fast main track. Saez, who had positioned Fearless up to third position, put his charge on near-equal terms with Warrant and 7-5 favorite Lone Rock when turning for home. From the outside, Fearless dueled a charging Lone Rock and had plenty in reserve to the finish, outkicking Warrant in completing the course in a 2:30.45 final time.
Warrant fended off Lone Rock, winner of last year’s Brooklyn, by a neck for second while the Pletcher-trained Portos and First Constitution finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Max Player and Locally Owned completed the order of finish.
“We anticipated he’d handle the distance. Of course, you never know until you try it, but he’s always given us that impression that he would keep grinding it out,” said Pletcher, who won the Brooklyn for the fifth time overall and second in the last three runnings following Marconi’s win in 2019 [the race was not contested in 2020]. “The track appears to be inside-speed favoring, but they’ve only run three dirt races all around one turn, so you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. We drew post 7 with Fearless and we wanted to be in good tactical position and sacrificed some ground to do so.”
Pletcher said the 1 3/4-mile $200,000 Birdstone on July 28 at Saratoga Race Course could be a possible next stop if the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban going 1 1/4 miles on July 9 at Belmont comes up too soon.
“Maybe,” Pletcher said about the Birdstone. “I think he’s versatile enough he can back up to a mile and an eighth or go further. The Suburban could be in play.”
The Brooklyn marked the seventh consecutive race Fearless has finished first or second as he improved his career ledger to 7-6-1 in 16 career starts.
“The horse can go six furlongs to a mile and a half,” winning owner Mike Repole said. “He’s a gelding, so as long as he’s healthy he’s going to be around awhile. He’s a fun horse to own. What we do is we look at all our horses, put them in their spots, and whatever spots are leftover, we throw Fearless in there and he fits in competitively.”
Off at 7-2, Fearless returned $9.30 on a $2 win wager. He earned millionaire status with the victory, increasing his bankroll to $1.12 million.
“That was the plan to try to sit third behind the speed and he ran his race and got the job done. He’s way better going longer. We always thought he would like more distance. Today was perfect and he kept running.”
Warrant moved 3-5-2 in 11 career starts for trainer Brad Cox, atoning for his only career off-the-board effort last out in the Grade 3 Ben Ali in April at Keeneland with runner-up honors in his Belmont debut.
“He ran good. I’m proud of him. Just second-best today,” Cox said. “It was new territory for him in regard to a mile and a half. It was an unknown, but I thought he responded well and stayed on. I think the horse that finished in front of him kind of got the jump on him, but he stayed on. It was a good effort.”
Lone Rock, who entered with wins in four of his last five starts for trainer Robertino Diodoro, finished in the money for the 15th time in his last 16 starts.
“He had a perfect trip, no excuses,” said Lone Rock jockey Ramon Vazquez. “The other horse [Fearless] made a good impression today and my horse responded well, but the other horse had a little bit more.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont with a nine-race card featuring the $150,000 Jersey Girl for sophomore fillies going six furlongs on the main track in Race 3 at 2:03 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1 p.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.
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By Brian Bohl
Photo by Ryan Thompson