10/13/2012 5:04PM

Belmont: La Cloche finds room to gain Athenia victory

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Under Junior Alvarado, La Cloche prevails in the Athenia.

ELMONT, N.Y.  - The instructions were simple, and jockey Junior Alvarado understood them. No matter what, trainer Jimmy Toner told him, get La Cloche to the outside.

But for more than three-quarters of a mile of Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Athenia Stakes at Belmont Park, La Cloche, who broke from the rail, was buried on the inside.

Around the far turn, Toner turned to his daughter Catherine and said, "How's he going to get out?"

Turning for home, Alvarado was able to get to the outside, and in the final furlong La Cloche responded with a strong late run to win the Athenia by 1 1/4 lengths over Embarr. It was three-quarters of a length back to Laughing in third. Ruthenia, the 6-5 favorite, finished fourth.

It was the fifth career victory but first in a graded stakes for La Cloche, a daughter of Ghostzapper and an older half-sister to the Grade 1 winner Winter Memories.

"To have a graded stakes on her resume means so much," said Toner, who trains La Cloche for the racing partnership headed by owner/breeder John Phillips. "She's had to live in her sister's footsteps all these years - finally she gets one. She deserves one, she tries hard."
It wasn't easy.

La Cloche was toward the back of the pack while The Underling set fractions of 25.16 seconds, 50.27, and 1:15.29 for six furlongs.
Jose Lezcano, on Ruthenia, had La Cloche bottled up inside, and Alvarado had to wait for Ruthenia to clear him turning for home.

In upper stretch Alvarado got La Cloche to the outside, and she ran together with Ruthenia before clearing her just outside the eighth pole. At that point, La Cloche lengthened her stride and was able to outfinish 24-1 shot Embarr to the wire.

La Cloche covered the 1 1/16 miles over a good inner turf course in 1:45.15 and returned $11 to win.

"The whole way I tried to work my way outside I was like, 'How the heck am I going to get out of here?' " Alvarado said. "It helped that somebody made a little early move, and that's when I had a shot to move her out, and after that she gave me a good kick at the end."

Toner said he would look to run La Cloche once more this year, possibly in the Grade 3, $100,000 Cardinal Handicap on Nov. 10.