10/08/2016 2:42PM

Anchor Down all the way in Kelso Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Anchor Down and jockey Javier Castellano win the Kelso Handicap by two lengths Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Anchor Down does his best work in one-turn-mile races at Belmont Park, something he demonstrated again Saturday with an impressive two-length victory in the Grade 2, $350,000 Kelso Handicap.

Taking the lead soon after the start under Javier Castellano, Anchor Down got away with an opening quarter of 23.30 seconds but then picked up the pace, running a half-mile in 45.74, six furlongs in 1:09:05, and a mile in 1:32.90 after turning back an upper-stretch challenge from Tamarkuz.

Tamarkuz finshed second by 4 1/2 lengths over Ocean Knight, who was followed by Point Piper and Tommy Macho. Upstart and Baccelo were scratched.

Though the Kelso can be used as a prep for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, winning trainer Todd Pletcher indicated that the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 26 would be more likely for Anchor Down. The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is a two-turn race this year at Santa Anita.

“I tend to think his forte is a one-turn mile,” Pletcher said. “We’ll play it by ear, won’t rule anything out, but if I had to guess today, we’d probably be looking more towards the Cigar Mile.”

If only the Cigar Mile were at Belmont, where Anchor Down won the Westchester in May and ran second to the freaky Frosted in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in the fastest clocking of that race’s 123-year history.

The final time of the Kelso was the fastest in seven runnings of that race since it was officially moved to the dirt from the turf. It also was just 0.66 seconds off the track record set by Najran in the 2003 Westchester.

“Running a mile in 132-and-4 with a son of Tapit with his bottom-side [pedigree] is a big win for him,” said Pletcher, who trains Anchor Down for Alto Racing.

Anchor Down returned $6 as the 2-1 favorite.

Tamarkuz, under Mike Smith, stalked Anchor Down all the way around the track. At the top of the stretch, Smith briefly thought he had a shot to reel in Anchor Down.

“He just ran a freaky race today, the winner,” Smith said. “I thought I had a chance to go by him, but I was watching that horse’s body language and his head, and he still had something left. I said, ‘I’m going to have to dig somewhere I didn’t have to dig yet to get him,’ and I couldn’t. Not today, anyway.”