Prerequisite with enough left in the tank to capture the Wonder Again (Walter Wlodarczyk)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y.— First Row Partners and Team Hanley’s Prerequisite had just enough left in the tank to stave off the late rush of Be Your Best and claim victory in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Wonder Again, a nine-furlong inner turf test for sophomore fillies, at Belmont Park.
The top three finishers of the Wonder Again have each received an automatic invitation to the Grade 1, $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 8 at Belmont. The 1 1/4-mile turf test is the opening leg in the Fasig-Tipton Fillies Turf Triple, a series of three important graded turf stakes for sophomore fillies. Following the Belmont Oaks, the series continues with the Grade 3, $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational at 1 3/16-miles on August 4 at Saratoga Race Course; and the 11-furlong Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Oaks Invitational to be held during the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown, Prerequisite passed her first test against winners on the heels of a second-out graduation going the Wonder Again distance on May 7 at Belmont. The bay daughter of Upstart was tenacious in victory, finding just enough late under Flavien Prat to become racing’s latest graded stakes winner.
“I wanted to be [on the lead] if she broke well,” said Brown, who scored a repeat victory in this event for a record fifth Wonder Again triumph. “He [Prat] actually hustled her out of there to make that lead. I didn’t want to leave it in the hands of another horse and possibly a slow pace to deal with in this race. So we established ourselves on the lead, the plan was to go or if she couldn’t get there, at least attempt to and get the pace going a bit.”
Prerequisite emerged sharply from post 4 and bounded to the front of the seven-horse field in tandem with Spansive to her outside through the first turn, marking an opening quarter-mile in 23.67 seconds over the firm footing.
Prerequisite inched further away from Spansive as Thirty Thou Kelvin and Allamericanbeauty went head-to-head for second entering the backstretch. The field was well spread out with position remaining unchanged through a half-mile in 47.94 before the Manny Franco-piloted Be Your Best was brought wide and began making up ground approaching the turn.
Be Your Best swung four-wide in the turn to take dead aim at Prerequisite, who held her advantage as Spansive retreated after three-quarters in 1:11.80. Prat asked Prerequisite for more at the top of the lane and his horse responded, digging in gamely at the eighth pole with the oncoming Be Your Best gaining with every stride. But Prerequisite was all heart and kept on well enough to repel her challenger by a neck in a final time of 1:47.20.
The Brown-trained Revalita improved from sixth to claim show honors one length back of Prerequisite with Spansive, Allamericanbeauty, Thirty Thou Kelvin and Venencia, who was off slowly, completing the order of finish.
Prat, who was aboard for the filly’s maiden win over impressive next-out maiden winner Highland Grace, said Prerequisite has ample courage.
“I hustled her out of the gate to get a good position and I found myself on the lead,” Prat said. “She was traveling well from there. She got really brave. Every time a horse came to her, she would dig in. It’s a good sign that more distance will be fine.”
Brown added the July 8 Belmont Oaks could come under consideration for Prerequisite’s next outing.
“It could be,” he said. “We’ll see how she comes out of this.”
Bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones, Prerequisite banked $110,000 for her Wonder Again victory. She returned $16 for a $2 win wager.
Horacio De Paz, trainer of Be Your Best, said he was encouraged by what he saw from the daughter of Muhaarar in her second start off a five-month respite.
“Her first race back was just one to give her, so it’s good to see that she came back against these horses. This was a tough race,” De Paz said. “I think [the Belmont Oaks] will be the plan as long as she comes out of it OK.”
Live racing resumes Thursday at Belmont with a nine-race card. First post is 3:05 p.m. Eastern.