Photo by Susie Raisher
By Keith McCalmont
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable and Steven Schoenfeld’s Freedom Trail rallied from deep to make his stakes debut a winning one in Saturday’s $120,000 Awad, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for juveniles, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The Awad was the first of four stakes on a lucrative card that included the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso won by longshot Double Crown; along with the Grade 3, $200,000 Bold Ruler; and the $120,000 Pumpkin Pie.
Trained by John Terranova, the Collected bay entered from a similar rallying debut score under returning rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. on September 25 over the same distance here.
El de Chimi broke outward from the outermost post 7 but recovered quickly to rush up and press the pacesetting Dandy Handyman through an opening quarter-mile in 23.23 seconds over the firm footing. The pair dueled for the lead down the backstretch with Noble Huntsman, under Manny Franco, sitting a trip in third in front of Let’s Go Big Blue as the half-mile ticked by in 48.54.
Freedom Trail was still near the back of the pack and waiting for his cue from Ortiz, Jr. as the Trevor McCarthy-piloted Dandy Handyman led the field late into the final turn with El de Chimi fading.
A scramble for the run down the lane saw Let’s Go Big Blue, racing to the inside of the rallying Freedom Trail, impeded by Noble Huntsman at the eighth pole as Dandy Handyman drifted to the center of the course and opened up the rail for the advancing Sendero.
Freedom Trail, full of run, was moving best of all on the race for home, traveling six-wide and surging through the wire a three-quarter length winner in a final time of 1:42.74. Dandy Handyman stayed on for place honors by a neck over Noble Huntsman, who was a nose better than the Eric Cancel-piloted Let’s Go Big Blue. Sendero, Conman and El de Chimi rounded out the order of finish.
A stewards’ inquiry and a claim of foul by Cancel for the incident at the eighth pole saw Noble Huntsman disqualified and placed fourth behind Let’s Go Big Blue.
Terranova said he was impressed by the powerful stretch move from the $150,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase.
“He’s got a big late run, and a huge reach on him as we can see,” Terranova said. “He covered some ground. Irad even told me that he was just getting going at the wire. He had a lot of horse.”
Ortiz, Jr., the leading rider at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet, said his horse had no trouble maneuvering beyond the drifting pacesetter.
“I was already making my decision to move outside of them, and I didn’t have to go out too much or fight my horse,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “We just had to go forward, and as soon as I asked him, he gave me a good turn of foot.”
McCarthy said the Keri Brion-trained Dandy Handyman, a debut maiden winner at Colonial Downs, lost focus once pace-presser El de Chimi faded.
“Once he lost that company mid-turn, he started to get out and I just started to adjust him then,” McCarthy said. “When he saw the stretch, it was wide open for him and he didn’t know what to do. He just got lost and he went out pretty bad. Irad came wide to beat me and beat me [by three-quarters of a length], so I don’t know if it cost him the win.”
Freedom Trail is out of the War Front mare Freedom, who is a half-sibling to multiple Grade 1-winners Hoppertunity and Executiveprivilege.
Terranova said he’s been impressed with the colt’s turn-of-foot thus far.
“Obviously at longer distances they’ll get more opportunities to try different types of things,” Terranova said. “You’re just figuring them out their first few starts and seeing what they want to do and anything that goes along with them. He certainly has done everything right and he has that big late kick and that’s what you need in turf racing. And he has a great mind, so that helps.
“Some horses like being out in the clear, others like to feel another horse,” he added. “With turf racing, you need the right trip, and you want to save as much ground as you can. A lot of them swing out late and kick. He certainly has been picture perfect both times.”
Bred in Kentucky by LNJ Foxwoods, Freedom Trail, who provided Collected his first stakes winner, banked $66,000 in victory while remaining perfect through two starts. He returned $5.80 for a $2 win bet as the post-time favorite.
Live racing resumes Sunday for Closing Day of the Belmont at the Big A fall meet with the 10-race Empire Showcase Day card featuring eight stakes worth $1.6 million. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.