Sep 25, 2021
Pocket Square scores in G3 Athenia to give Brown his 100th graded stakes win at Belmont Park
by Keith McCalmont
Juddmonte homebred Pocket Square, expertly handled by Irad Ortiz, Jr., rallied to a fashionable victory over stablemate Miss Teheran in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia, a nine-furlong inner turf test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Belmont Park.
The victory provided four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown with his 100th graded stakes win at Belmont Park, according to records provided by Equibase.
“What an achievement for my team, my owners, and my horses throughout the years that have run so hard,” Brown said. “A big thank you to NYRA for providing me and my horses such great facilities to train and race on through the years. They have been instrumental in developing my business.”
A 4-year-old Night of Thunder chestnut, Pocket Square entered from a 4 1/4-length optional-claiming win traveling nine furlongs on the Saratoga Race Course turf on August 25.
Pocket Square rated comfortably outside rivals in fourth as Stand for the Flag set splits of 25.30 seconds, 51.41 and 1:16.71 on the good turf.
Lake Lucerne pressed the pacesetter through the final turn with Made In Italy advancing up the rail and Pocket Square angling outside for the stretch run. But Pocket Square, always moving like a winner, took over the lead from Lake Lucerne at the stretch call and secured a 2 1/2-length win in a final time of 1:51.19.
Pocket Square, sixth in her lone sophomore start in the Group 3 Musidora at York, was a Group 3-winner as a juvenile in France for her former conditioner Roger Charlton. She notched a debut win for Brown in a 1 1/16-mile Keeneland allowance tilt in April and followed with back-to-back fifth-place finishes in Grade 1 company in the one-mile Longines Just a Game in June at Belmont and the nine-furlong Diana in August at Saratoga.
Brown said he may have moved Pocket Square into Grade 1 company too quickly.
“She had that explosive run at Keeneland and I’ve done that before, where I run them in a race like the Just a Game off an effort like that and won,” Brown said. “When it works out well, you feel like a hero. When it doesn’t work out, you have to go back to the drawing board, which I had to do. I probably should have brought her along just a little bit slower after that Keeneland race and not throw her in the deep end of the pool, but that’s past us now and we have her back on track with a couple of really nice wins.”
The victory provided Ortiz, Jr. with his fourth win on the card following a trio of scores for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with Life Is Good in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap in Race 4; impressive 2-year-old filly maiden winner Nest in Race 1; and a romping maiden win in Race 6 aboard juvenile New York-bred colt Overstep in Race 6.
“She did everything right,” Ortiz, Jr. said of Pocket Square. “She broke and relaxed. She waited on me to call on her to run and when I asked her, she took off. She looked like much the best.
“I only used the stick a couple of times and that was it,” he added. “She was moving comfortably so I didn’t need to do much.”
Miss Teheran, with Manny Franco up, rallied outside rivals to secure the exacta by one length over Lake Lucerne. Made In Italy and Stand for the Flag completed the order of finish. Main-track only entrant Spice Is Nice was scratched and will instead target the Grade 2, $250,000 Beldame here on October 10.
“She was moving well and I had a good trip,” said Franco of Miss Teheran, who was pulled up in the gallop out and provided a precautionary ride home in the equine ambulance. “She bled [past the wire], which is the only excuse I can give. She ran a good race.”
Brown, a 14-time leading trainer at Belmont, posted his first graded win at Belmont in the 2008 Miss Grillo [a Grade 3 in that year] with Karen Woods’ Maram. Nearly a third of Brown’s graded stakes coups at Belmont have come at Grade 1 level, including six victories in the Manhattan, five Flower Bowl wins, and four straight Just a Game triumphs [2017-20].
Bred in Great Britain by her owner, Pocket Square banked $110.000 in victory while improving her record to 9-5-0-1. She returned $2.90 for a $2 win wager.
Live racing returns Sunday at Belmont Park with a 10-race card featuring the $150,000 Bertram F. Bongard for New York-bred juvenile fillies at seven furlongs [Race 4, 2:36] and the Grade 2, $250,000 Gallant Bloom for fillies and mares going 6 ½ furlongs [Race 9, 5:16]. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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