ELMONT, N.Y. – Ocala Dream had the distinction of improving his Beyer Speed Figures in each of his first four career starts. The continual improvement extended to his stakes debut on Saturday at Belmont Park, as the Effinex colt took command at the top of the stretch and outkicked 5-2 favorite Step Dancer to post a one-length score in the $150,000 New York Stallion Stakes Series Spectacular Bid for eligible state-sired 3-year-olds going seven furlongs on the Widener turf course.
Ocala Dream, owned by Thomas Albrecht, Vincent Fusaro and James Klein, broke his maiden at fourth asking last out, topping Bar Fourteen by 1 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile turf contest over firm going at Belmont.
Trainer Tom Morley said before the race he was looking to use this contest as a springboard to the $150,000 NYSSS Cab Calloway going one mile on the turf July 28 at Saratoga Race Course.
But Morley saw his charge garner more than just a positive experience. Ocala Dream, under jockey Junior Alvarado, tracked in fourth position as Dreamer’s Disease led the 11-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.82 seconds and the half in 45.61 over firm going.
Alvarado had plenty of horse out of the turn, surging to the front in overtaking the tiring pacesetter from the outside. Barrage challenged in the final furlong and Step Dancer made an even stronger later bid, but Ocala Dream pressed on to complete the course in 1:21.20.
“It’s always a big edge when you have a horse who breaks out of the gate very good,” Alvarado said. “It helps you to get the position you want. He broke alertly and put himself in a good spot, I just had to guide him turning for home. Once I got him in the clear, he knew what to do after that. I kept after him just a little bit to get the job done. He wasn’t the favorite but he was much the best today.
“I was very pleased with the way he won last time and even though we were going a little shorter this time, I didn’t have a problem with it,” Alvarado added. “I thought he would have a stronger kick shortening up in distance.”
Following a nine-month break, Ocala Dream made his 3-year-old debut with a third-place finish in a one-mile maiden special weight at Belmont, running third going one mile on April 23. After winning at 1 1/16-mile last out, Ocala Dream cut back to a turf sprint for the first time in his career but aced the test, with the 3-1 selection returning $8.40 on a $2 win wager.
“We thought this distance might have been a little on the short side for him, but he broke better his last race and broke relatively well in this race,” Albrecht said. “Coming around the turn, it looked like Junior had a lot of horse. He galloped out all the way to the backstretch. We were really pleased.”
Ocala Dream, bred in New York by Mahwinney Liberman, Beglin and Coutsodontis, more than doubled his career earnings to $137,600.
“He had a very nice trip from Junior,” said Juan Bernardini, assistant to Morley. “This horse has been improving and with each race is getting better and better. He has so much class.”
Step Dancer, trained by Barclay Tagg and ridden by Dylan Davis, bested Barrage by a half-length for second.
“I think we were a little compromised with the seven-eighths going in, and then on top of that the outside post was tough,” Davis said. “He’s a very nice horse. I did the best I could with saving ground and I was happy with where I was at in the two-path. I was able to find a seam in between. Seven-eighths is just a little on the short side for him. He’s a very nice horse and when he stretches out again, he’s going to be very tough.”
Devious Mo finished fourth, with It’s Gravy, Dancing Buck, The King Cheek, Hold the Salsa, Jacks American Pie, Market Alert and Dreamer’s Disease completing the order of finish.
Thunderbird Cafe scratched, as did main-track only entrants Sinful Dancer and Gods Will. King Moonracer was scratched at the starting gate.
The Spectacular Bid is named for the 1982 Hall of Fame inductee who won the 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, tallying 26 wins in his 30 career starts. He was named the 1980 Horse of the Year after going 9-for-9 in his 4-year-old campaign.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont with a 10-race card, highlighted by the Grade 3, $250,000 Poker for 4-year-olds and up going one mile on the turf in Race 9. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the 48-day spring/summer meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Bryan Bohl/NYRA
Photo: Ocala Dream (Annette Jasko/NYRA)