07/04/2016 5:54PM

Giant Run wins Manila Stakes, caps four-win day for Velazquez

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Chelsea Durand/NYRA photo
Giant Run, with John Velazquez aboard, wins the Manila Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths Monday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – It’s a jockey’s natural instinct to take a hold of a horse when he wants to slow him down. But when John Velazquez took a hold of Giant Run in the early stages of Monday’s $100,000 Manila Stakes at Belmont Park, the 3-year-old colt wanted to run off.

So, Velazquez did the opposite of what he knew to do and let the reins go in hopes Giant Run would become less aggressive. The move worked as Giant Run did relax early on and had something in reserve when Velazquez called on him later to record a 1 1/2-length victory in the Manila.

Strike Midnight finished second by three-quarters of a length over Rappel. They were followed by Life Imitates Art, Conquest See Ya, the pacesetting Too Discreet, and Dig Deep.

The Manila was part of a four-win day for Velazquez, who also took the day’s co-feature, the $100,000 State Dinner Stakes, on Comfort ($6.40).

Velazquez was riding Giant Run for the first time. He knew the horse had speed, but he also knew Too Discreet, who was drawn to Giant Run’s inside, had more early speed.

“I didn’t want to be head-and-head with him,” Velazquez said.

Though Giant Run broke on top, Too Discreet quickly assumed the front under Joel Rosario. Giant Run attempted to go with Too Discreet early before Velazquez changed tactics.

“I tried to grab him, and he run off for about five jumps, and I let the reins go, and he relaxed. It was the complete opposite,” Velazquez said. “It was totally by mistake. I just didn’t want to fight him.

“I put my hands down, loose rein, and he relaxed really well,” Velazquez added. “I was where I wanted to be, and when I asked him, he responded.”

Giant Run tracked Too Discreet through fractions of 22.82 seconds, 45.99, and 1:09.87. Giant Run took the lead in upper stretch and then ran away from Strike Midnight, who came up to challenge at the eighth pole.

Giant Run, a son of Giant’s Causeway owned by William Mack and Robert Baker and trained by Tom Albertrani, covered the mile in 1:32.85 and returned $16 as the fifth choice in the seven-horse field.

Albertrani was happy to see Giant Run be effective sitting off another horse.

“I didn’t think he had to be on the lead; he was ratable enough where he was comfortable,” Albertrani said.

Albertrani is not sure how far Giant Run will run. The next middle-distance turf stakes for 3-year-olds on this circuit is the Grade 3, $200,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga on Aug. 5 at 1 1/16 miles.

“I don’t know how far he’ll go. I think a mile suits him well,” Albertrani said.