09/10/2011 5:36PM

Belmont: Grassy sprints home best for Bowling Green Handicap victory

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Grassy wins the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap by a half-length on Saturday at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Grassy satisfied his hunger for victory Saturday at Belmont Park, first by nearly taking a bite out of one of his rivals, then by outkicking the rest of them to take the Grade 2, $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap on opening day at Belmont Park.

Despite a wide trip under Garrett Gomez, Grassy overtook Center Divider just outside the sixteenth pole and outlasted that one to the wire to win by a half-length. It was a neck back to Bold Hawk in third. He was followed in the order of finish by Sanagas, the 3-2 favorite, Kindergarden Kid, Colonialism, and Sal the Barber.

The win was the fifth from 15 starts, but first in five outings this year for Grassy, a 5-year-old son of El Prado owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. It was Grassy’s first win since he took the Grade 2 Red Smith at Aqueduct last November.

“That horse deserved that win, he’s a good horse,” said trainer Christophe Clement, who won this race in 1996 with Flag Down and 1999 with Honor Glide.

Grassy won despite racing three wide and behind a slow pace that saw stablemate Sal the Barber set pedestrian fractions of 25.57 seconds for the quarter, 51.65 for the half-mile, and 1:18.07 for six furlongs. Going into the first turn, Grassy cocked his head and tried to bite Bold Hawk.

After racing in fifth position early, Gomez guided Grassy into third midway down the backside. Center Divider, who raced in second early under Javier Castellano, went after Sal the Barber midway around the turn, and Gomez followed that move. Center Divider struck the front at the eighth pole, but could not hold off Grassy, who made the lead while three wide inside the sixteenth pole.

Grassy covered the 1 3/8 miles over good ground in 2:19.69 and returned $5.60 to win as the second choice.

“We all kind of went around there and picked the pace up after we turned for home then we started sprinting,” Gomez said. “Everybody sat chilly, everybody just stayed along where they were at, everybody rode their horse like they were on the best horse, and my horse come home better than anybody’s.”

Clement said he would keep Grassy eligible for races like the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic here Oct. 1, the Canadian International on Oct. 16 at Woodbine, and the Red Smith at Aqueduct in November.

* The meet did not begin on a good note. In the opener, jockey Abel Lezcano hit his head on the gate when his mount Guyana Princess acted up. The filly was scratched from the race, and Lezcano was taken to North Shore University Hospital where a CT-scan proved negative though doctors said he showed symptoms of a concussion and advised him against riding Sunday.

In the third, Payout, a 4-year-old colt by Johannesburg, broke both sesamoids in his right foreleg and had to be euthanized.

* One bright spot was the debut of Aubby K, who won at first asking by 15 1/2 lengths, 17 years after her mother, Lilly Capote, won her maiden in her second start by 13 1/2 lengths over this track.

Aubby K is a daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense owned by James Spence and trained by Ralph Nicks. She ran 5 1/2 furlongs in an unspectacular 1:05.10, but the main track was yielding slow times most of the day.

Another bright spot was Takes the Gold, a 2-year-old son of Corinthian who won a one-mile maiden race by 3 1/4 lengths. Takes the Gold, who was third to Hopeful winner Currency Swap in both colts’ debuts at Saratoga, ran a mile in 1:37.86. Takes the Gold is owned by Jay Em Ess Stable and trained by Richard Dutrow Jr.