03/12/2016 2:15PM

Adirondack King ends losing streak in Challenger Stakes

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Tom Keyser
Adirondack King and jockey Javier Castellano win the Challenger Stakes by half a length Saturday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Adirondack King snapped a five-race losing streak and got his first victory away from Parx Racing on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, stubbornly holding on down the stretch to win the $100,000 Challenger Stakes by half a length over Neck ‘n Neck. It was another half a length back to Breaking Lucky in third.

The Challenger was the first of four stakes on Festival Day, which features the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and Grade 2 Hillsborough Stakes.

With Javier Castellano aboard for the first time Saturday, Adirondack King ($25.20) settled into sixth place early and raced three wide as the favored Outlash led the field of seven older horses through a quarter-mile in 24.29 seconds and a half-mile in 47.73. Outlash ran well off the rail, forcing several of his opponents wide around the first turn, including Breaking Lucky.

Adirondack King advanced three wide around the turn and surged to a 1 1/2-length lead at the head of the lane, with Neck ‘n Neck rallying on his outside and Breaking Lucky diving down toward the rail and slowly making up ground. But Adirondack King would not relinquish his lead, stopping the clock for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.15.

“I had a lot of confidence today with the way he’d been training,” Castellano said. “He’d been training phenomenally. He put in a great performance today. I had a beautiful trip. I ended up a little wide in the first turn. I had the worst part of it early, but the way he did it was amazing. I felt horses coming at the top of the stretch, but he kept fighting all the way to the end. He has a lot of heart.”

After third-place Breaking Lucky, the order of finish was Ami’s Holiday, Outlash, This Boy’s Sharp, and Ghost Hunter.

Adirondack King, a 7-year-old Lawyer Ron gelding, has won seven of his 37 career starts and earned $501,574 for trainer John Servis and owner MarchFore Thoroughbreds. Prior to Saturday, he had lost five straight starts since winning the $75,000 Auld Lang Syne Stakes at Parx in December 2014. Adirondack King now has three stakes wins, including a score in the restricted, $75,000 Christopher Elser Memorial in 2011.

Neck ‘n Neck, a 7-year-old Flower Alley horse trained by Ian Wilkes, was making his first start since a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup last November. He’s winless in four starts at Tampa.

Breaking Lucky, a 4-year-old Lookin At Lucky colt trained by Reade Baker, was making his first start since September. Last summer, he won the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes.  

Outlash, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song trained by Todd Pletcher, was favored off a sharp first-level allowance score at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 31 in which he earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.