Firenze Fire ignites 6-year-old campaign in G3 Runhappy

May 8, 2021

ELMONT, N.Y. – For the second straight year, Mr. Amore Stable’s Firenze Fire kicked off his season with a graded stakes triumph, besting a five-horse field in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Runhappy for older horses going six furlongs at Belmont Park.

Carded as Race 4, the Runhappy kicked off Saturday’s five-stakes program at Belmont, which also includes the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War at 1 3/8-miles on the turf for 4-year-olds and upward and is bolstered by the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan, the local prep for the Belmont Stakes; the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaugay for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16-miles on turf; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy at 6 1/2-furlongs on the main track for filly and mare sprinters 4-years-old and up.

Firenze Fire, who notched his eighth graded stakes win, had not raced since finishing second, beaten a half-length in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on December 19 at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old son of Poseidon’s Warrior netted three graded stakes victories last season, which included a triumphant 2020 debut in the Grade 3 General George at Laurel Park as well as the Grade 2 True North and the Grade 2 Vosburgh, both at Belmont.

Firenze Fire broke sharply from post 4 but tracked two lengths off Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap winner Chateau, who displayed his usual frontrunning tactics through splits of 22.59 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.51 for the half-mile over the fast main track.

Still in command in upper stretch, Chateau was under a drive as Irad Ortiz, Jr. got busy aboard Firenze Fire, who confronted the pacesetter and established command just past the eighth-pole. Firenze Fire galloped to the wire an in-hand 3 ¼-length winner in a final time of 1:09.76.

Chateau held second by three-quarters of a length over Town Classic, who ran third at stakes level for the second start in a row.

Stan the Man and Drafted completed the order of finish.

“I knew the other horse [Chateau] was going to go and no one else was going to be close with him, so I decided to be close and not have to be in a rush,” said Ortiz, Jr. “It’s only six furlongs. I didn’t want to let him relax too much and then make a run from the three-eighths pole. I just let him be closer and waited as long as I could to start going.”

Ortiz, Jr. piloted Firenze Fire to two of his three graded stakes victories last year in the General George and the True North.

“When I asked him, he responded really well. The tank was full,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “He kept coming and kept moving forward. He feels great. I think this is going to be a good year for him. He can be right there in the conversation with all the good sprinters.”

The well-rounded Firenze Fire, who captured the 2019 Runhappy, has won over seven different tracks but appears to have quite the affinity for Belmont Park having won six-of-nine efforts over Big Sandy. Five of these victories at Belmont came at graded stakes caliber, dating back to a half-length win in the Grade 1 Champagne in October 2017 during his juvenile season.

His success at Belmont swayed trainer Kelly Breen to start his year at the historic track, where he has won at least one stakes race for five straight years.

“There were a couple other races we could have pointed towards; the undercard of the Derby [G1 Churchill Downs], this race or a race over at Pimlico,” Breen said. “But [owner] Ron [Lombardi] said let’s go to his home track at Belmont. There’s no such thing as a soft spot. We locked up Irad. All the things just kept on clicking.”

The long term goal for Firenze Fire is the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 6 at Del Mar. He finished a respective third and fifth in the last two runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“I’ll talk to Ron about it but the goal is the Breeders’ Cup Sprint,” Breen said. “I’ll assume at the end of the year he’ll be going to stud, but Ron loves running in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. One day at a time and I’m happy he came back as strong as he did. He looked great.”

Returning $3.80 as the 4-5 favorite, Firenze Fire banked $82,500 in victory which pushed his lifetime earnings up to $2,319,350 and record to 32-13-4-3.

A Florida homebred, Firenze Fire is out of the dual-placed Langfuhr mare My Every Wish, who also produced stakes-placed filly Firenze Freedom as well as unraced juvenile Just Leo – a full-brother to Firenze Fire. 

Live racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern. The slate is highlighted by the $100,000 Gold Fever for 3-year-olds going six furlongs on the main track in Race 8 at 4:51 p.m.

Starting on May 1, Belmont Park re-opened to a limited number of spectators. All admission must be purchased in advance at nyra.com/belmont/tickets/.

For comprehensive information on health and safety protocols in effect for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet, please visit: https://www.nyra.com/belmont/visit/plan-your-visit.

Belmont Park Press Release

Photo: Firenze Fire, (Susie Raisher)

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