10/03/2010 6:21PM

Air Support earns berth in BC Juvenile Turf with Pilgrim win

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Air Support scores a 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Air Support overcame a soft Belmont Park turf course, a slow pace, and a jockey’s objection to win Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Pilgrim Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths and earn a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf next month at Churchill Downs.

The Pilgrim was a Win and You’re In race for the Juvenile Turf on Nov. 6.

Soldat, who defeated Air Support by seven lengths in the With Anticipation last month at Saratoga, finished second by a head over Deciphering Dreams.

Air Support, under Rajiv Maragh, and Soldat, with Alan Garcia up, raced side by side in fourth and fifth position, respectively, while Dual Citizen set fractions of 25.97 seconds, 51.11, and 1:16.17 for six furlongs.

Approaching the quarter pole, Air Support rallied four wide while Soldat went six wide. Air Support and Soldat came together above the eighth pole and then again outside the sixteenth pole as the two passed Dual Citizen. Air Support pulled away late to get the win.

Garcia claimed foul on Maragh, but the stewards left the result stand, explaining that the bumping did not alter the outcome of the race.

“I am very disappointed with the stewards’ decision,” Garcia said. “My horse was going by, he got bumped twice and after the second bump my horse got intimidated.”

Maragh, obviously, saw it differently.

“It’s a little bit [they’re] 2-year-olds, they’re a little green, they’re running a little in and out,” Maragh said. “It wasn’t too serious of a contact; it was more of a brush and Garcia’s horse was leaning in toward mine and kind of turned my horse out a little bit. But once they straightened up, they both had a fair shot to the wire and my horse pulled away from him.”

Air Support covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.87 and returned $12 to win.

Shug McGaughey, who trains Air Support for Stuart Janney III, had said he felt the speed-favoring nature of Saratoga’s turf course worked against his horse in the With Anticipation and that returning to Belmont would benefit his horse.

“The winner that day showed he was a nice horse – he was second today,” McGaughey said. “I thought if I got him back to Belmont we’d catch a little bit fairer track, and we obviously did.”

Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Soldat, was happy enough with the way his horse ran given the soft ground said would most likely move on to the Juvenile Turf.

“You never know on this ground how they’re going to perform, and he performed well,” McLaughlin said. “He was hung wide and ran very well. We’ll probably continue on.”