Messier Shoots And Scores In G3 Westchester

May 3, 2024

Messier feels the competition on his tail. (Susie Raisher)

NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The Rick Dutrow, Jr.-trained Messier scored a redemptive victory to give jockey Jose Gomez his first career graded stakes victory in Friday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Westchester, a one-turn mile for older horses, at Belmont at the Big A. 

Owned by SF Racing, Madaket Stables, Lansdon Robbins, III, Tom Ryan, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable and Siena Farm, the multiple graded stakes-winning son of Empire Maker crossed the wire first under Gomez last out in the local nine-furlong Listed Excelsior on March 30 but was disqualified and placed second behind Laughing Boy for interference in the stretch.

“We were happy with the way he run last time, we were thrilled, and we’re even happier with this one,” Dutrow, Jr. said. “He’s a very nice horse.” 

The Westchester win marked Messier’s third career Grade 3 victory, adding to scores in the 2021 Bob Hope at Del Mar and 2022 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Park when in the care of Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert. 

With Gomez at the helm again, Messier emerged well from post 3 in the seven-horse field and tracked in second between Adero to his inside and Charge It to his outside as the former marked an opening quarter-mile in 23.26 seconds over the fast main track. 

The top trio opened up by three lengths over Winit down the backstretch as the favored Post Time was held near the rear of the field by Sheldon Russell with the half-mile elapsed in 46.16 seconds. Gomez asked Messier for more entering the turn as Adero toiled, and Charge It was coaxed in the three path. An all-out Charge It gave chase in second at the top of the lane as Messier powered to a 3 1/2-length advantage and Post Time split between the advancing Winit and waning Adero to make his bid for the lead at the eighth pole. 

Post Time drifted out and back in a touch down the center of the course while gaining with every stride to overtake Charge It for second in the final sixteenth, but there was no catching Messier, who fended off his challenger by three-quarter-lengths under a hand ride in a final time of 1:34.50. 

Charge It finished third 3 1/4 lengths back of Post Time with Winit completing the superfecta. Dr Ardito, Whittington Park and Adero completed the order of finish.

Gomez said Messier relished the turnback by one furlong from the Excelsior. 

“I liked the cut back in distance. Last time, we went one mile and an eighth, and we went really too quickly up front,” said Gomez. “But he was in contention, up there the whole way. [Today] I knew once the two [Winit] didn’t break, and the one [Adero], I knew we were faster than the one, so I just let my horse get comfortable. He was just cruising along. Around the turn, I felt really confident. I just chirped at him a bit and he just kept it going.”

Gomez, who began riding in 2021 and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2022, expressed his gratitude for a milestone first graded stakes victory. 

“It’s the best feeling in the world. It is a graded stake, it is what we all want as jockeys. The races all of us want to win, and the owners and trainers want to win,” said Gomez. I’m just grateful that I was able to ride him back after last time. It was a process, you start off as a bug boy and work your way up, meeting and riding for new people, getting more opportunities. Slowly but surely, we all get there.

“Thank you to my mom. Thank you to Angel, who has taught me a lot, Kelly Breen who brought me to New York, Rick Dutrow, of course, putting me on a lot and Blake Dutrow [assistant],” Gomez added. “Just everybody by my side, I want to thank everybody. I couldn’t have done it by myself, it was really a team effort.” 

Gomez piloting Messier to victory on the rail. (Chelsea Durand)
Gomez piloting Messier to victory on the rail. (Chelsea Durand)

Bred in Ontario by Sam-Son Farm, the $470,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase is out of the multiple stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Checkered Past, with his third dam being 2000 Canadian Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Catch the Ring. He banked $96,250 in victory and improved his lifetime record to 14-4-5-1 while returning $8.20 on a $2 win ticket. 

Dutrow, Jr. added he would not be opposed to pointing Messier towards the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 8 at Saratoga Race Course, a race he has also pinned down for multiple graded stakes-winner and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic victor White Abarrio. 

“We have White Abarrio that we’re going to run in that race and he’s going to be the main danger. I want that to be his race and anyone else that wants to go I’ll be happy to do it – I mean, who doesn’t want to run in the Met Mile? We’ll probably point Messier to the race, I don’t know why we shouldn’t,” said Dutrow, Jr. “He’s never had a run at Saratoga and I’m sure he deserves this kind of chance. After this run today, it seems like he’s just getting good again, doesn’t it? We’re excited about him.” 

Messier made his third career outing for Dutrow, Jr. after his Excelsior effort and a runner-up effort in a January 1 1/16-mile optional claimer at Laurel Park. He had returned from a nearly one-year layoff in December to finish third in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint over Tapeta at Woodbine for trainer Kevin Attard before moving to Dutrow, Jr.’s barn. 

The Brittany Russell-trained Post Time suffered just his second loss in 10 lifetime starts and entered off a narrow victory in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on April 6 here. 

Sheldon Russell said he may have left the talented son of Frosted with too much to do late. 

A dusty Post Time (#4 outside) flanked the much cleaner Messier to the final yards. (Chelsea Durand)
A dusty Post Time (#4 outside) flanked the much cleaner Messier to the final yards. (Chelsea Durand)

“We knew going the mile he’d be outrun. They seemed to be going pretty fast early on and I was happy down inside, he traveled beautiful,” said Russell. “At the half-mile pole, I started catching them up and maybe I hesitated a little bit and maybe should have tipped him out and gone on with him, but he made up a lot of ground. 

“I really felt like he should have won today,” Russell continued. “Maybe I was a little too confident out there thinking they were going to stop but these good horses don’t stop they just keep going. He put in a big effort. Hopefully he comes out of the race good. I think he’s proven that he’s a decent horse.”

Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont at the Big A with an 11-race card featuring the Grade 2, $200,000 Fort Marcy [Race 8], the Listed $150,000 Elusive Quality [Race 9] and the Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian [Race 10]. 

First post at the Big A is 1:05 p.m. with the facility open to the public from 10 a.m. – 8:45 p.m. to accommodate a 10:30 a.m. first post at Churchill Downs for their 14-race card that features the Grade 1, $5 million Kentucky Derby in Race 12 at 6:57 p.m. The Big A will host a Kentucky Derby watch party Saturday featuring free bourbon tasting, a premium cigar stand, live music and food trucks.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the Belmont at the Big A spring/summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont at the Big A, and the best way to bet every race of the spring/summer meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.

@jonathanstettin Brilliant as always. Agree with everything you said. Thank you! ! 🙂

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