10/24/2015 2:37PM

Empire Dreams prevails in Empire Classic

NYRA photo
Empire Dreams, with Manny Franco aboard, wins the Empire Classic by three-quarters of a length Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Following a last-place finish in the Empire Classic last year, Empire Dreams was gelded, his connections hoping the drastic move could provide dramatically different results.

A year later, castration proved to be the answer as Empire Dreams rallied from fifth place to win Saturday’s $300,000 Empire Classic by three-quarters of a length over Royal Posse at Belmont Park. It was 4 3/4 lengths farther back to 71-1 Full of Mine in third.

It was the fifth win from 17 starts for Empire Dreams, a 4-year-old by Patriot Act owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Tom Albertrani.

Empire Dreams took advantage of a hotly contested pace – Warrioroftheroses and Saratoga Snacks were a head apart after six furlongs in 1:09.78 – and a clear trip under Manny Franco to win the fourth stakes of his career.

“We got what we needed today; we got the right pace,” Albertrani said. “He reeled them in. He loves this track. It just worked out.”

Empire Dreams is now 3-4-0 from eight starts over Belmont’s main track, including a victory in the $200,000 Commentator Stakes going a mile here in May. He had been winless in four previous tries at 1 1/8 miles, including a 17-length defeat in last year’s Empire Classic.

“He’s always been kind of quirky, especially in the paddock. He’s always been a bad-acting horse,” Albertrani said. “He still has it in him, but he’s a little bit more relaxed after we did it. That helped a little bit, I guess.”

Franco kept Empire Dreams four to five wide down the backstretch. Franco had his eye on Royal Posse, who he felt was one of the horses to beat.

When Javier Castellano moved on Royal Posse, Franco followed suit. He tipped Empire Dreams six wide in the stretch, and he outfinished Royal Posse to the wire.

Empire Dreams covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.35 and returned $9.70 as the third choice.

“At the three-eighths pole, I tried to follow [Royal Posse] because I know he can win, too,” Franco said. “I said maybe I can wait a little bit more because it’s a mile and an eighth. When I make my move, I know I have a lot of horse.”

Saratoga Snacks, the winner of this race in 2013, didn’t have a lot left after pressing the hot early pace. He finished seventh, beaten 16 lengths.

Trainer Gary Sciacca said jockey John Velazquez told him, “when he asked him to come out of there, he ran off with him. He didn’t want to be that close.”