Poppy Flower all heart in winning the Intercontinental under Jose Ortiz (Susie Raisher)
By Brian Bohl – NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y.— Arnmore Thoroughbreds’ Poppy Flower remained persistent into the stretch, overtaking five rivals in total and gaining the edge on pacesetter Bubble Rock in the shadow of the wire for a thrilling win by a nose in Friday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental at six furlongs on the inner turf for older fillies and mares in Friday’s concluding race at Belmont Park.
Megan Jones, general manager and owner of Arnmore Farms, expressed delight in seeing the Kentucky homebred daughter of Lea and the Excellent Art mare Nisharora make the grade.
“We bred her, and raced the mare so this is very exciting, and this is her first foal so it’s really thrilling,” Jones said. “Down the stretch we were cheering for her, but I didn’t think she got there. [After they crossed the wire] we stayed sitting and then they showed the replay, and obviously, that was a nice surprise. That was amazing. When Poppy kicks, it’s always unbelievable but it just didn’t look like she got there, so we are thrilled.”
Poppy Flower, whose lone previous graded stakes appearance was a fifth-place effort in the 2021 Grade 3 Futurity at Belmont, saw Jose Ortiz give her a patient ride, tracking in fifth position as Bubble Rock, under Joel Rosario, led the eight-horse field through the opening quarter mile in 22.29 seconds and the half in 45.61 over firm going.
Out of the turn, Ortiz tipped out Poppy Flower, finding an open lane to the outside in picking off Bay Storm, Amy C and Goin’ Good with a strong late surge. Zeroing in on Bubble Rock, Poppy Flower completed the comeback by stopping the clock in 1:08.53.
It marked the first win in three attempts in Poppy Flower’s 4-year-old campaign following a third-place effort against optional-claiming company in April at Aqueduct Racetrack and a last-out runner-up finish in the License Fee last month at Belmont for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Bubble Rock finished three-quarters of a length ahead of the Flavien Prat-piloted Amy C for second. The favorite Bay Storm was fourth, with Goin’ Good, Clitheroe, Messidor and Sarah Harper completing the order of finish.
“She tried hard and got a great trip,” said Mott, who notched his first career Intercontinental win. “He tipped her out in time, and she got there. I mean, she was rolling. She was going to be a half-length in front a couple of jumps past the wire but I wasn’t sure she got there in time. That’s a close finish. I wasn’t sure she got there. She’s one of those fillies that shows up every time, but today was an exceptionally good race.”
Poppy Flower, off at 6-1, returned $15 on a $2 win wager. She improved her career earnings to $505,030 and moved to 4-5-2 in 14 career starts.
“She broke great. I felt like we had a good position,” Ortiz said. “I was following Flavien. When he made his move, I made mine outside of him and luckily we got the bob in the end. You see the form of this mare – she’s there every time. There’s not a day that she hasn’t shown up. I think she’d run on anything. She’s just a trier and she gives me confidence. I knew she was going to run great and it’s nice to ride a horse you know is going to give you 100 percent. Bill got her doing great and the owner is just great. I’m just so happy for everyone.”
Bubble Rock, trained by Brad Cox, was coming off a win in the License Fee and has finished first or second in each of her last four starts dating to a win in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere in November at Churchill Downs that concluded her 2022 ledger.
“She broke in front nicely with no speed today,” Rosario said. “I was just cruising. I had time to get her inside and she got beat right there on the wire. She ran her race.”
Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont for the lucrative 13-race Belmont Stakes Day card, featuring nine graded stakes races led by the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in Race 12. First post is 11:20 a.m. Eastern.