05/27/2017 5:40PM

Big Handsome now 3 for 3 on turf after Paradise Creek

NYRA photo
Big Handsome paid $3.40 in winning the Paradise Creek on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Despite Big Handsome having won his first two turf starts in front-running fashion, jockey Javier Castellano was convinced he could rate behind horses. Trainer Tony Dutrow wasn’t so sure.

There’s a reason Castellano is a four-time Eclipse Award-winning rider.

Big Handsome relaxed nicely off speed horses Derek’s Smile and Mongo Nation, tipped three-wide approaching the quarter pole, then kicked away impressively in the stretch to win Saturday’s $100,000 Paradise Creek Stakes for 3-year-olds by 5 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park. Kitten’s Cat finished second by 2 1/2 lengths over Small Bear.

Harlan’s Harmony was fourth followed by Have Another, Mongo Nation, and Derek’s Smile.

Big Handsome, a son of Street Boss owned by Team D Stables headed by Dutrow, is now 3 for 3 on turf after going 0 for 3 on dirt to begin his career.

“I was kind of 80 percent before the race I knew he was going to rate because last time he wasn’t rank,” Castellano said. “I told Tony, ‘I think we can stretch him out seven-eighths.’ Now, I think I convinced myself the horse can go a mile, even a mile and a sixteenth.”

Dutrow said “not at all” when asked if he was confident Big Handsome would rate. “But Javy was. He told me after his last race he would settle” Dutrow added.

“In the paddock, I said 'Javy, are you going to be okay today?’ He said, 'Tony, he will listen to me, he will be fine.’ Javy was right.”

Derek’s Smile, from the rail was sent out to the lead under Jose Ortiz and was latched onto by Mongo Nation, under Luis Saez. Those two set realistic fractions of 23.15 for the quarter and 46.26 for the half-mile with Big Handsome outside of Kitten’s Cat in the second flight.

Castellano did a good job of keeping Kitten’s Cat, the 3-1 second choice, bottled up around the turn, before launching his attack on the leaders. Big Handsome took control in upper stretch and closed powerfully over the good turf for the win.

Big Handsome covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.53 and returned $3.40 as the 3-5 favorite.

“You could tell he was sitting fine, but I didn’t know if he’d finish,” Dutrow said. “He’s a good horse.”