07/01/2017 8:32PM

On Leave holds back Off Limits in Perfect Sting Stakes

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Annette Jasko/NYRA
On Leave paid $5.50 in winning the Perfect Sting Stakes at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. - When the best horse in the race is the beneficiary of the best trip it usually is a recipe for success. Such was the case in Saturday’s $100,000 Perfect Sting Stakes at Belmont Park for On Leave, who never left the inside under Jose Ortiz and held off a wide-rallying Off Limits to win the one-mile race by a neck.

The victory was the fifth from nine starts for On Leave, a 4-year-old daughter of War Front owned and bred by Stuart Janney III and trained by Shug McGaughey. Four of her five wins have come at Belmont Park; On Leave added the Perfect Sting to a prior victory here in the Grade 2 Sands Point last September.

Breaking from post 2 under Ortiz, On Leave got to the inside and rated in fourth position just behind the pace-setting Ultimate Holiday, who received token pressure from Ancient Goddess through a quarter of 24.13 seconds and a half-mile in 48.23.

Ortiz stayed along the inside and, when Ancient Goddess came a bit off the rail turning for home, he sent On Leave through the opening and was able to outfinish Off Limits, who had to go six wide in the stretch under John Velazquez.

“I followed [Ultimate Holiday] all the way; when we entered the stretch she switched leads and opened up a little bit,” Ortiz said. “I had a lot of horse, I was able to get through.”

On Leave covered the mile in 1:34.02 and returned $5.50 as the 8-5 favorite.

“They always say the inside is the quickest way around there,” McGaughey said. “I was sure glad the race set up that way where we could sit there and make his move when we needed to.”

Off Limits finished second by 3 1/4 lengths over Ancient Secret, who nosed out Conquest Babayaga for third. The second-, third- and fourth-place finishers were all trained by Chad Brown. My Sweet Girl, last year’s Perfect Sting winner, Outsider Art, and Ancient Goddess completed the order of finish.

McGaughey said he would nominate On Leave to the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga on July 22, but he is more likely to wait and point for the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa at Saratoga on Aug. 26.