05/07/2016 3:31PM

Anchor Down gets first stakes win in Westchester

Michael Amoruso
Anchor Down, ridden by Jose Ortiz, wins the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths Saturday.

Anchor Down turned in a career-best effort to easily win the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes in the Belmont Park mud Saturday under Jose Ortiz.

A strong-looking gray son of Tapit, Anchor Down broke sharply and went directly to the lead in the one-mile Westchester. He set realistic fractions of 23.38 seconds, 46.88, and 1:10.84, then pulled away to win by 6 3/4 lengths under a hand ride. He covered his final quarter in 24.26 while being timed in 1:35.10.

Anchor Down, the second choice in the six-horse field, paid $5.70 to win. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Alto Racing.

Pletcher's New York assistant, Byron Hughes, was pleased by the effort but not surprised.

"He's been training very well," Hughes said. 'The Met Mile would be on his radar, but we'll have to see how he comes out of this race before any decisions are made."

The Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap will be run on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 11.

Anchor Down, 5, is now 4 for 13 in his career. The Westchester is his first stakes win. He came into the race off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Carter and a third in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Anchor Down won his first two career starts in early 2014, then was off for more than a year before returning to the races in April 2015.

Samraat, making his second start following a long layoff, ran well to be second. Samraat, making only his third start for trainer Rick Violette since the 2014 Belmont Stakes, raced in the second flight along the inside early, then continued willingly in the stretch. He finished 3 1/4 lengths clear of third-place Mylute.

Violette said Samraat would be considered for the Met Mile but that he thought Samraat is most effective at distances longer than a mile.

Red Vine, the 4-5 favorite, raced several lengths off the early pace, lodged a mild bid three wide into the stretch, flattened out, and finished fourth. He was making his first start since Nov. 28.

Stormin Monarcho, who raced closest to the winner early, tired to finish fifth.