10/15/2012 4:34PM

Belmont: Toner savors two graded wins

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
La Cloche, with Junior Avarado riding, wins the Athenia.

ELMONT, N.Y. - When you have a 20-horse stable, winning one graded stakes race is a good day. Winning two is huge.

“It was a big day,” trainer Jimmy Toner said. “I was really excited.”

On Saturday, Toner won the Grade 3, $150,000 Athenia Stakes at Belmont with La Cloche, a half-sister to Toner’s Grade 1-winning mare Winter Memories, whom he had to retire earlier this summer.

A few hours later, Toner watched on television as Two Months Rent rallied through the rain to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Hawthorne Derby by a head at 26-1.

For La Cloche, a 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper, the victory was big because it was her first in a graded event and enhances her value as a broodmare prospect.

As a gelding, Two Months Rent’s future is as a money-earner, and the 3-year-old may have a future in graded events.

“He’s just getting better,” Toner said. “We’re just finding his style and how he wants to run. Initially, we were having him close up early and on the lead. Now we realize he wants to settle and finish.”

Two Months Rent gave Toner his second Hawthorne Derby win in exactly five years. Bold Hawk won the race Oct. 13, 2007. Bold Hawk was recently retired after suffering injuries in a van accident during the spring that claimed the life of one of Toner’s other horses.

Though Two Months Rent has made nine starts this year – making stops at Gulfstream, Aqueduct, Pimlico, Delaware, Penn National and Colonial – he could make a trip west for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25 at Hollywood Park.

“He’s made quite a few starts, but he’s a gelding, and geldings you run them,” Toner said.

And as far as that 20-horse stable is concerned, Toner said he doesn’t have that many running.

“Three are in the shop, 17 are operating,” Toner said.