ELMONT, N.Y. – Michael Dubb and Michael J. Caruso’s Hot Peppers won a three-way speed duel before staving off Half Is Enough down the lane to capture Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies at Belmont Park.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez and piloted by Luis Saez, the Khozan bay dueled to the outside of graded-stakes winner Pretty Birdie and graded-stakes placed Happy Soul through splits of 22.10 seconds and 45.52 over the fast main track before taking command late in the turn.
Half Is Enough, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, stalked from fourth behind the hotly-contested pace and came with a menacing wide run down the lane, but could not reel in a resolute Hot Peppers, who scored by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:17.73. Half Is Enough completed the exacta by 2 1/2-lengths over Sterling Silver, who closed from last-of-5. Happy Soul and Pretty Birdie rounded out the order of finish. Stand Up Comic and Smash Ticket were scratched.
“She shows a lot of class and that’s what you want to see in these kinds of races. I know most of the time there will be a lot of challenges, especially with her speed,” Rodriguez said. “I was kind of worried about the distance a little, but she hung in there and she prevailed. She showed what she can do.”
Saez said he was impressed by the tenacity of Hot Peppers.
“Today, she surprised me a lot because she went pretty fast and challenged the other ones. But she proved she can really run,” Saez said. “She beat some nice fillies and I’m pretty happy with her.
“This filly I’ve been following for a long time. She’s that kind of filly that always fights,” he added. “If she’s in a fight, she’s pretty tough to get by. She always gives you everything she has and she did that today.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. said he was pleased with the effort from Half Is Enough, who went to post as the longest shot in the field at odds of 8-1.
“She ran big,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “She did everything right, but the winner was really nice. She was tough to get by”
Hot Peppers won a trio of sprint starts over the winter at Gulfstream Park for trainer Ronald Spatz. She was purchased privately following a distant ninth in the seven-furlong Sophomore Fillies in March at Tampa Bay Downs and sent to Rodriguez in New York.
The talented bay sprinted to a 6 3/4-length score in the six-furlong Jersey Girl on June 12 at Belmont in her first start for new connections ahead of Saturday’s graded coup.
“She’s been very special. We’re just blessed,” Rodriguez said. “We thank Mr. Dubb for giving us the opportunity with this kind of horse. He’s one of the first owners that supported us since Day One. She just keeps coming and coming.”
Hot Peppers will now look to add to her ledger and give Rodriguez a repeat victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores fillies on August 6 at Saratoga Race Course.
“She’s a 3-year-old and has [given us] all the indications,” said Rodriguez, who won the Test last year with Bella Sofia. “She passed this test, so hopefully we’ll look forward to the Test.”
Bred in Florida by Brent Fernung and Crystal Fernung, Hot Peppers banked $82,500 in victory while improving her record to 7-5-1-0. She returned $10.60 for a $2 win bet.
Sunday will mark Closing Day for the Belmont Spring/Summer meet, with a nine-race card featuring the $100,000 Saginaw for New York-bred 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles in Race 8. First post is 12:30 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.
Belmont Park Press Release