Mystic Eyes breaks through against stakes company with gate-to-wire Stewart Manor victory
by Brian Bohl
MeB Racing Stables and Vincent Esopi’s Mystic Eyes earned black type in her first two stakes starts, setting the pace before finishing second in the Ainsworth in September at Kentucky Downs and a competitive third in the Grade 3 Matron on October 9 at Belmont Park. The daughter of Maclean’s Music broke through on Saturday, going gate-to-wire and fending off Hot Fudge’s last charge to post a victory by a neck in the $100,000 Stewart Manor for juvenile fillies going six furlongs on Belmont’s inner turf course.
The fourth running of the Stewart Manor, which marked the last of four stakes on the 10-race card on the penultimate day of the Belmont fall meet, saw Mystic Eyes break sharp from post 3. Under jockey Manny Franco, the Kentucky bred led the 10-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 21.75 seconds and the half in 44.75 over firm going, with Benbang in close pursuit.
Hot Fudge, who tracked the pace from the inside under jockey Eric Cancel, gained ground in the final furlong, pressing Mystic Eyes to the wire before the pacesetter completed the course in a 1:09.97 final time to secure her second win in four career starts.
Mystic Eyes, a debut winner by 4 1/2 lengths on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course before her pair of stakes placings, has never finished off the board for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
“She’s fast. You just have to control her speed a little because she’s a type of horse who just wants to go,” Franco said. “I tried at some point in the race to give her a breather and save something for the end, and that’s what we did. She was ready for today’s race. I’m just happy to be on her.”
Mystic Eyes, the 8-5 favorite bred by Pursuit of Success, returned $5.20 on a $2 win wager. She improved her career earnings to $164,000.
“I thought she broke well. She has a lot of speed and used that today,” said Byron Hughes, assistant to Pletcher. “She got into a nice rhythm and did a great job on the front end without using too much. And she was able to hold off the competition. It was a nice win. We’ll see what comes out of it. I imagine we’ll head south pretty soon.”
Hot Fudge, trained by Linda Rice, bested Gal in a Rush by a half length for second in her first start since running seventh in the Grade 1 Frizette on October 3 at Belmont.
Benbang, Rigby, Flip My Id, Charlee O, The Club, Still My Babe and Stand Up Comic completed the order of finish.
Live racing resumes Sunday with Closing Day of the Belmont fall meet. The 10-race card, which features an 11:50 a.m. first post, will feature a pair of stakes in the $150,000 Zagora for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/2 miles on the turf in Race 4 at 1:18 p.m. and the Grade 3, $150,000 Nashua for 2-year-olds in a one-turn mile on the main track in Race 9 at 3:43 p.m.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the fall meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the fall meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.