10/22/2016 4:43PM

Brother O’Connell adjusts to dirt and wins Mohawk Stakes

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Tom Morley said there was no hesitation about keeping Brother O’Connell in the race even after rain forced New York Racing Association management to transfer Saturday’s $200,000 Mohawk Stakes from the Belmont turf to the dirt.

Brother O’Connell had run a decent fourth once on dirt, and Morley felt that the Mohawk could possibly scratch down to a field of three. Though five actually started, none could get by Brother O’Connell, who took the lead under John Velazquez soon after the start, then held off a bid by Tapitation to win the Mohawk by a neck.

Tapitation, the even-money favorite, finished second by 3 1/2 lengths over Macagone. King Kreesa and The Crocheron Kid completed the order of finish. Kharafa, Lubash, Offering Plan, and Latigo Trail scratched.

Morley said he thought Brother O’Connell would have been competitive on the turf against statebred stalwarts King Kreesa, Lubash, and Kharafa. But, he said, he told owner Jerry Crawford at dinner Friday night that if the race should come off turf, “We got to take a shot at it. It’s a big pot, we know he’ll handle the dirt, it’s the last real chance in New York for him this year and you never know what the weather is going to do.”

Crawford, who likes to run his horses, didn’t need too much convincing.

“The slop is kind of the great equalizer, a lot of these horses haven’t tried this before,” Crawford said. “He’s been knocking on the door and today he got there.”

King Kreesa broke on top, but Brother O’Connell had a narrow advantage over King Kreesa through a half-mile in 48.15. King Kreesa began to drop back at the three-furlong marker, but Tapitation picked up the chase and drew on even terms with Brother O’Connell leaving the three-furlong marker.

The two ran together until the three-sixteenths pole when Brother O’Connell began to edge away. Tapitation tried to make one more run at Brother O’Connell late, but never could get by him.

“It never looked like he was ever going to get by him,” Morley said. “He was pretty tenacious today. I think they could have gone around again.”

Brother O’Connell, a son of Giant’s Causeway, covered the 1 1/8 miles in the slop in 1:47.23 and returned $11.20.

Velazquez said when Tapitation came to him, Brother O’Connell “started fighting, so that horse was a good companion down the lane.”

Morley said he plans to bring Brother O’Connell to Fair Grounds for the winter.

“The stakes program down there lends itself to a horse like this,” Morley said. “He won’t have a hard winter campaign. We’ll target the statebred stakes when we come back, but I’d like to keep him going through the winter. I call it more of a working holiday.”