06/10/2011 5:59PM

Belmont Park: Courageous Cat wins Poker in comeback

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Emily Shields
Courageous Cat, with Jose Lezcano up, wins the Poker.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Courageous Cat made a successful return to the races, overcoming slow early fractions and overpowering longshot pacesetter Yield Bogey with a furlong to run to take Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Poker Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park.

Yield Bogey, who got loose on the lead through pedestrian fractions, held second by one length over Right One. Beau Choix and Riviera Cocktail completed the order of finish. Court Vision, as expected, scratched because of the heat and may run next weekend in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said.

Courageous Cat won for the fifth time in 12 starts, but the first since he took the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park in February 2010.

He had started only twice since then, his last outing being a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last October.

Friday, Courageous Cat broke on top, but was quickly reined in by Jose Lezcano, who had him under a stranglehold as Yield Bogey, under Edgar Prado, ran an opening quarter in 24.63 seconds, a half-mile in 49.77 seconds and six furlongs in 1:13.73.

Courageous Cat came outside of Yield Bogey outside the eighth pole, at which point Lezcano shook the reins at his mount, hit once right-handed, and the colt took off. Courageous Cat, a 5-year-old son of Storm Cat owned and bred by Marty and Pam Wygod, covered the mile in 1:36.69 and returned $3.60 as the favorite.

"It was the kind of the trip we thought we'd have," winning trainer Bill Mott said. "It looked like the outside horse would be the speed. I didn't know they'd let him go that slow. I guess we had first run at him."

Mott said he was happy to see that Courageous Cat didn't have to be hard used first time off an eight-month layoff.

``For the first time out in a long time, you hate to see him have to set crazy fractions," Mott said "It's just nice to see he's able to close off fractions like that I suppose."

Mott didn't rule out wheeling Courageous Cat back in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on July 2.

"It would be very quick back, but we'll see how the horse is doing," Mott said. "We're not ruling it out at this point."