05/07/2016 6:47PM

Ironicus looks as good as new in Fort Marcy

Tom Keyser
Ironicus, making his first start in eight months, wins the Fort Marcy Stakes under Jose Ortiz.

Ironicus returned from an eight-month injury-related layoff in top form to take the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Ironicus went four for six last year, including victories in a pair of Grade 2's, the Dixie at Pimlico and the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga, but suffered a cracked a cannon bone in September and underwent surgery. He returned to training earlier this year and recorded six works in Ocala at Niall Brennan Stables before trainer Shug McGaughey put the finishing touches on him in New York.

Ironicus looked like his old self in the $150,000 Fort Marcy, sitting several lengths off the early pace before making a three-wide move on the far turn. He took the lead from front-running Smooth Daddy in upper stretch, battled with him for a sixteenth, and then drew off to score by 1 1/2 lengths under Jose Ortiz, who earlier on the card won the Westchester Stakes.

The 1 1/8-mile Fort Marcy was the longest race of Ironicus's career but he handled it without any apparent difficulty. Last year, at age 4, Ironicus made all of his starts at either a mile or 1 1/16 miles.

"I always wanted to go farther with him last year than what I was running but it just worked out that way," McGaughey said. "We had him really going in the right direction last year, and then he hurt himself, which happens. We're very glad to have him back."

Ironicus paid $3.80 as the favorite in the seven-horse field. He was timed in 1:50.82 over a yielding inner turf course.

McGaughey said the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan, a Grade 1 with a $1 million purse on Belmont Stakes Day "would be a consideration" for Ironicus.

Ironicus is now six for 12 with earnings of $663,790.

Smooth Daddy, a 15-1 longshot, set controlled fractions of 25.78 and 51.28 while being stalked by Blacktype, resisted when challenged by the winner but could not keep pace late. Messi, who was returning from a five-month layoff, was never far back and finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Smooth Daddy.

Red Rifle, was unhurried early at 4-1, but lacked a closing response when asked and finished sixth.