06/08/2012 5:38PM

Belmont Park: Upgrade shortens up to win Jaipur

Barbara D. Livingston
Upgrade wins the Jaipur under jockey John Velazquez.

 ELMONT, N.Y. - After a steady diet of two-turn races, Upgrade seems to have found his niche. On Friday he shortened up to seven furlongs to register a three-quarter-length victory over a troubled Right One in the $150,000 Jaipur at Belmont Park.

Upgrade, a 5-year-old son of Saint Liam, found a new home with trainer Michelle Nihei earlier this winter and was a winner right off the bat for his new mentor when rallying to capture a mid-level optional claiming race going one mile at Gulfstream Park. He stepped up into graded company for his next start, finishing fifth after setting a contested pace in the 1 1/16-mile Fort Marcy.

With jockey John Velazquez aboard for the first time, Upgrade was reserved three lengths off the early pace of Yield Bogey, who set honest splits of 23.06 and 45.56  seconds for the opening quarter- and half-mile of the Grade 3 Jaipur. Upgrade eased out a bit turning for home to secure clearance, responded readily once roused by Velasquez settling into the stretch, overtook the leader inside the eighth pole, then withstood a final surge from Right One.

Right One was allowed to settle at the rear of the field after an alert beginning, remained last to the stretch, swung five wide turning for home, then finished best of all but could not reach the winner. Yield Bogey faltered late, finishing another 2 1/2 lengths further back in third.

Senor Dehere, Shintoh, and the main-track-only Ponzi Scheme were scratched.

Upgrade completed the distance in 1:21.25 over a firm course and paid $12.

“I’ve been fortunate to inherit him,” said Nehei, who trains Upgrade for owner Dennis Narlinger. “It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride with that last race. I stretched him out and it was a little bit too long. This is really his forte. I can’t say enough good things about him. Johnny [Velazquez] said he was very professional, extremely rideable. And when you get Johnny V. you’re going to get a good trip.”

Nehei said the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will now be the goal for Upgrade.

 “We’ll take a breath, see how he comes out of this race, aim for something appealing at Saratoga and keep him on a path that looks obvious between now and November.”