08/03/2017 6:55PM

Hard Study grinds to victory in Birdstone Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hard Study posted a workmanlike 2 1/2-length win in Thursday's Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – “He just kept grinding away.”

That was how trainer Todd Pletcher pretty much summed up Hard Study’s workmanlike, 2 1/2-length victory over Scuba in Thursday’s 1 3/4-mile Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga.

The main question going into the $100,000 Birdstone was whether Hard Study, who’d never won beyond 1 1/16 miles, could stay the grueling distance. But with John Velazquez aboard, the homebred son of Big Brown was able to relax within easy striking distance of the pace, edged closer to the leader Scuba on the final turn before engaging that rival in early stretch and edging away at the end.

Scuba, winless in three starts since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Marathon nine months earlier, was forwardly placed from the outset, moved clear after the opening mile, but ultimately proved no match for the winner. He checked home 1 1/2 lengths in front of Archanova, with last year's winner Turco Bravo a distant fourth.

Munjaz was eased shortly after passing the wire the first time and vanned off.

Hard Study, who is owned by Paul Pompa Jr., completed 14 furlongs in 2:56.17, his final time a little over one second off the track standard set by Reigh Count in 1928.

“He kept finding a little more, that’s what you’ve got to do in these types of races,” said Pletcher. “We knew Scuba was the horse who had some history winning races at this distance and felt he was the one to beat. Johnny kind of targeted him down the backside the second time, and was able to wear him down.”                                     

Pletcher said he was confident going into the race that Hard Study would handle the distance.                                                                       

“He gave me the feel he would do it,” said Pletcher. “What’s really important in these types of races is to have a horse who’ll relax early on and drop the bridle a little bit, and we felt he could do that. Although you never know until you actually try it.”   

Earlier on the card, Swoop rallied from last to a three-quarter length victory over Wigwam Baby in the $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes decided at 2 1/16 miles over hurdles. Sarah Joyce was third, while For Goodness Sake, the 2-1 favorite, finished a tiring fifth. 

The race was marred when Fall Colors suffered fatal injuries after falling over the second jump.

Swoop was ridden to victory by Bernard Dalton for trainer Elizabeth Voss and paid $23.80.