by Keith McCalmont
Allen Stable's Civil Union made the lead at the top of the lane and kicked clear of favored Olympic Games to capture the $80,000 River Memories, the final stakes of the 25-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet.
Beau Belle continued to dictate the tempo down the backstretch through a half-mile in 50.07 with Pallas Athene pressing her early foot followed by Civil Union and a ground-saving Lemon Zip in fourth.
Ortiz urged Civil Union into contention mid-way through the final turn with Olympic Games, piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr., following her run as the field converged on the longtime pacesetter. A game and determined Beau Belle dug in but Civil Union edged clear and found another gear when confronted by Olympic Games to secure the 1 3/4-length win in a final time of 2:29.49.
"I had enough. I knew I would have enough horse down the lane. I just wanted to see how close they were," said Ortiz. "I saw Irad right next to me approaching the quarter-pole. I knew I had to start moving on her. When I asked her the first time, she moved beautifully. She's a very big filly, so I knew the distance wasn't going to be a problem for her."
Olympic Games completed the exacta, 1 ½-lengths clear of Beau Belle. Rounding out the order of finish were Dyna Passer, Pallas Athene, Beale Street, Wegetsdamunnys, Lemon Zip, Red Curls and Seeking Revenge. Tass was scratched.
Civil Union was transferred to the care of Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for her 2020 campaign in which she has won two-of-three starts, including an allowance score on June 21 at Belmont.
McGaughey said a sharp ride from Ortiz made all the difference.
"He [Jose Ortiz] said that she had plenty of horse and was going nice and relaxed the whole way," said McGaughey. "He had her in perfect position behind that slow pace. I think Jose made a big difference there. I think he rode a perfect race."
The 5-year-old War Front mare, a Kentucky homebred, banked $44,000 in victory, while improving her record to 6-3-1-1. She returned $11.80 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing returns Thursday, July 16, Opening Day of the 2020 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course which runs through Labor Day, Monday, September 7. Following the four-day opening weekend, live racing will be conducted five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays.
Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the 40-day summer meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, NYRA Bets is currently offering a $200 new member bonus in addition to a host of special weekly offers. The NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at NYRABets.com.