06/01/2013 4:10PM

Belmont Park: Amberjack pulls clear in Mike Lee Stakes

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Chelsea Durand/NYRA
Amberjack, with Junior Alvarado up, wins the Mike Lee Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Displaying the ability to come from off the pace, Amberjack ran past the dueling leader Weekend Hideaway to win Saturday’s $125,000 Mike Lee Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds at Belmont Park.

Weekend Hideaway, the 7-5 favorite, finished second after dueling with Hay Shares through a strong early pace. Smooth Bert was third and followed in the order of finish by Soul House, West Hills Giant – who stumbled badly at the break – Hay Shares and Run Forrest Run. Bond Vigilante and Belief System scratched.

The win was the second straight for Amberjack, a son of Indygo Shiner owned by John Fort’s Peachtree Stable and trained by Mike Hushion.

Junior Alvarado picked up the mount on Amberjack after named rider Joel Rosario had to leave Belmont earlier than planned in order to ride at Penn National Saturday night.

Amberjack had dueled for the lead when winning a first-level allowance race here May 11. He appeared on his way to a comfortable victory, but Rosario had wrapped up on him, and the margin was only a half-length.

Saturday, Amberjack was behind horses, a relatively close-up fifth along the inside, while Weekend Hideaway dueled outside of Hay Shares through a quarter in 22.26 seconds and a half-mile in 45.10.

“I was comfortable with it, I really couldn’t tell how well he was taking the dirt down in there, but Junior said he handled it very well,” said Hushion, who noted he didn’t give Alvarado any instructions on where to place the horse early. “He said he felt he had horse the whole way.”

Alvarado tipped Amberjack to the outside in upper stretch, and he collared Weekend Hideaway outside the sixteenth pole and drew clear to a 1 3/4-length victory.

“At the five-sixteenths, I started to pick it up because he’s a big horse and you have to start kind of early with him,” said Alvarado, who won two of the first three stakes on Saturday’s card. “I asked him, and he responded pretty well for me and kicked big there at the end.”

Amberjack covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.64 and returned $26.80.

Trainer Phil Serpe believes attending the quick pace may have compromised Weekend Hideaway.

“It was his first big effort for the year, so that duel up front might have taken a little bit out of him,” Serpe said. “I made a big mistake of telling Mike Hushion [Friday] that all of his horses looked great out on the track. I should have kept my mouth shut.”

The Mike Lee is the first leg of the Big Apple Triple, which awards a $250,000 bonus to the connections of a horse who wins the Mike Lee, New York Derby on July 20 at Finger Lakes, and Albany Stakes on Aug. 21 at Saratoga.

Hushion said Amberjack would be pointed to the New York Derby at 1 1/16 miles.