09/29/2012 4:43PM

Belmont Park: Jersey Town vindicates Tagg's decision with big score in Kelso

Barbara D. Livingston
Jersey Town wins the Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont for his first victory since taking the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in 2010.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Before entries closed Wednesday morning, trainer Barclay Tagg said he was going to run Jersey Town in Saturday’s Grade 1 Vosburgh at six furlongs because he thought the Grade 2 Kelso at a mile was a tougher race.
After further thought - and after talking to Jersey Town's owner Charles Fipke - Tagg reversed course and entered the horse in the Kelso.

“I like distance races better than sprints," Tagg said. "I feel like I’m more comfortable with that."

Apparently, so is Jersey Town, who drew away from pace-setting Shackleford in upper stretch to a 3 1/2-length victory in the $400,000 Kelso at Belmont Park.

Shackleford, who won the Metropolitan Handicap over this track in May, settled for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Trickmeister. It was 4 1/2 lengths back To Honor and Serve, the even-money favorite, who was never a factor. Golddigger’s Boy and Tapizar completed the order of finish.

The win was the first for Jersey Town since he won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in 2010. He had dropped seven consecutive decisions since then. It also earned him a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3 as part of the Breeders’ Cup’s Win and You’re In program.

For Tagg, it was his first win since June 16. He had lost 47 consecutive races.

Jersey Town, under Javier Castellano, was a relatively close-up third behind Shackleford and Trickmeister through a half-mile in 45.02 seconds.

Coming to the five-sixteenths pole, Jersey Town moved into second, took over from Shackleford in upper stretch, then drew away impressively.

Jersey Town, a 6-year-old son of Speightstown, covered the mile in 1:35.24 over a track labeled good and returned $18 to win.

“He looked like he was full of run the whole time to me,” Tagg said. “I can’t say I expected him to open up like that on this field, but he did.”

Shackleford hadn’t run since finishing last in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 5, so his runner-up finish was encouraging to his connections.

“Considering the way the track came up, he ran well - much better performance than the Vanderbilt,” trainer Dale Romans said. “It does set us up good for five weeks from now.”

Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner, will be pointed to the Dirt Mile, Romans said.

Trainer Bill Mott said he knew there was a chance that To Honor and Serve could bounce off his win in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on Sept. 1. But he felt that by running To Honor and Serve in the Kelso, it gave the horse his best chance of running a good race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

“Whether that turns out to be the case or not I’ll have to answer that question myself in five weeks,” Mott said. “I thought by running him today was the best way to get him to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at his best.”