Fearless Solidifies Affinity for Endurance Tests in $200K Birdstone

July 28, 2022

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The dirt marathon division appears to have a new leader as Repole Stable’s Fearless bested defending race winner and notable dirt stayer Lone Rock in Thursday’s 12th running of the $200,000 Birdstone at Saratoga Race Course.

Fearless, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, was a last-out winner of the Grade 2 Brooklyn going 12 furlongs at Belmont Park, where Lone Rock finished third. The 6-year-old son of Ghostzapper persevered to the wire on Thursday, capturing the 1 3/4-mile test by three-quarters of a length and earned his third stakes triumph this year.

Breaking sharply from his inside post, Fearless took back to third as Lone Rock flashed his usual frontrunning style with Shooger Ray Too just to his outside in second through a quarter-mile in 24.94 seconds and a half-mile in 50.06 over the good and harrowed main track.

As the compact field passed the stands for the first time, Original Intent appeared keen to join the top flight of runners and matched strides with Lone Rock and Shooger Ray Too. Fearless, who angled a path wide, took to the rear with stablemate Portos to his inside. With not even two full lengths covering the field, Lone Rock maintained a narrow advantage through three-quarters in 1:15.40.

Shooger Ray Too dropped out of contention down the backstretch with Original Intent moving right up to even terms with Lone Rock through 1 1/4 miles in 2:06.14 as Fearless advanced into third under an all-out drive from Saez from 1 1/2 lengths off the pace.

Rounding the far turn, Lone Rock was 1 1/2 lengths in front of Original Intent, with both horses drifting out approaching the quarter-pole. With the inside wide open, Fearless wasted no time pursuing the front as Lone Rock attempted to keep him and Original Intent, to his outside, at bay. As Lone Rock’s lead dwindled, Fearless captured command passing the eighth pole and drew off to victory in a final time of 2:59.88.

Original Intent finished one length ahead of Lone Rock, who rounded out the trifecta. Portos and Shooger Ray Too completed the order of finish.

Pletcher, who has won 6-of-12 editions of the Birdstone, admitted he was concerned when the field passed the grandstand for the first time.

“It didn’t seem like he was loving the track. He was off the bridle pretty early for him,” said Pletcher, who collaborated with Repole to win the Birdstone with Micromanage [2014] and Moretti [2020]. “I was worried until he made a little spurt down the backside where he picked up a couple lengths and I thought maybe we were OK, but then he came off the bridle again. Luis just stayed with him – a really courageous effort for a horse that I don’t really think was loving the going out there.”

Saez also said there were some anxious moments for Fearless.

“At one point when we hit the half-mile, I thought it was over. But we cut the corner and he switched leads and gave me another gear,” Saez said. “It was great and he came on time. His style is to be in the clear and he doesn’t like to be squeezed in the middle of horses, so when I saw everyone was stopping front of me. I saw [Lone Rock] was supposed to be on the rail, so I went back in and cut the corner. It was a great finish. He always tries hard.”

Fearless’ victory in the Birdstone Stakes (NYRA)

The consistent Fearless now boasts a ledger of 17-8-6-1 and has not finished worse than third in his past 11 starts, dating to a victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile in February 2021. The well-traveled 6-year-old gelding captured his sire’s Grade 3 namesake race at Gulfstream Park two starts prior to the Brooklyn. He has now won or placed at stakes level over five different racetracks.

“You have to give him credit. That win was all heart,” Pletcher said. “Luis never gave up on him. It was a good ride from him to stay with him and keep asking.”

Banking $110,000 in victory, Fearless boosted his lifetime earnings to $1,236,450. He returned $3.90 for a $2 win wager as the post-time favorite.
Runner-up Original Intent, trained by Bentley Combs, entered the Birdstone unbeaten in two starts at the grueling 14-furlong distance, and jockey Joel Rosario said he rode the horse like one that can handle the long trip.

“Everybody’s going the long way and the strategy is if the horse can take the distance,” Rosario said. “He did everything right. With the humidity and the weather in these long races, they’re definitely going to get tired at the end, but they hung in there and it was a good race.”

Gallant in defeat, Lone Rock’s trainer Robertino Diodoro said his 16-time winner and earner of over $1.3 million didn’t get the trip he was hoping for.

“He put the five [Shooger Ray Too] away and as soon as he put him away, the three [Original Intent] was on him, so he never really got a breather. He tried, but going a mile and three quarters he needs a breather,” Diodoro said.

Claimed for $40,000 by Diodoro in November 2020, Lone Rock has won nine races for his current trainer, seven at stakes level.

“He’s awesome and a one-of-a-kind horse for a $40,000 claim,” Diodoro said. “I’m not disappointed in him. He tried and had to do all the dirty work today. We’ll give him a little time and think about [a next start] in a week or so.”

Live racing resumes on Friday at Saratoga with a 10-race card, featuring the nine-furlong $135,000 Curlin in Race 7. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the 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: Fearless takes the Birdstone (NYRA/Coglianese)

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