10/12/2013 6:08PM

Belmont Park: Pianist wins Athenia for red-hot Brown

NYRA photo
Pianist, with Jose Ortiz aboard, wins the Grade 3 Athenia Stakes by two lengths Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – It may not have been with the horse that most people figured, but trainer Chad Brown’s stable continued its graded stakes success this week, as Pianist cruised to a two-length victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Athenia at Belmont Park.

It was the fourth Grade 3 stakes win of the week for Brown’s stable, which won Sunday’s Miss Grillo and Pilgrim here and Wednesday’s Jessamine at Keeneland. Brown’s Alterite finished second in Saturday’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

At 5-2, Pianist was the longer price of Brown’s two entrants in the Athenia. Samitar, the even-money favorite, did not switch leads in the stretch and finished third.

Pianist, a 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready owned by Hidden Brook Farm and Dan Zucker, won for the sixth time in 13 career starts. Earlier in the year, she won the Grade 3 Gallorette at Pimlico.

Pianist entered the Athenia off a neck loss to Laughing in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga. Laughing is undefeated in four starts this year and is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

“She ran into Laughing last time, who was a bear,” said Cherie DeVaux, Brown’s New York-based assistant. “But she really, this year, has been just outstanding for us.”

Under Jose Ortiz, Pianist stalked the pacesetting Assateague through a quarter-mile in 24.65 seconds and a half-mile in 47.23. She crept alongside Assateague at the five-sixteenths pole and opened up a three-length lead by midstretch. Abaco made a late run but never truly threatened, finishing two lengths behind Pianist and 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Samitar.

Pianist covered the 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:39.94 and returned $7.90 as the second choice.

Ortiz said his plan was to go to the front on Pianist, but she didn’t break as well as he had hoped.

“The last time she ran, she followed Laughing,” Ortiz said. “I tried to ride the same race, and everything went the right way.”