Updated on 09/16/2011 8:43AM

Left Bank breaks Belmont record


ELMONT, N.Y. - The brilliance Left Bank has flashed at times in the past was on display for a July Fourth crowd of 18,609 at sweltering Belmont Park to see again Thursday as he rolled to a 6 1/4-length victory over Affirmed Success in the $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap.

By running seven furlongs in 1:20.17, Left Bank set a Belmont Park track record, eclipsing the mark of 1:20.20 set by You and I in 1994. John Velazquez rode the winner, his fourth victory on the 10-race card.

Left Bank, owned by Michael Tabor, was coming off a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap. In that race, he got caught in a wicked speed duel 16 days after winning the Bold Ruler Handicap. Thursday, Left Bank got the perfect setup as he sat behind the tandem of Express Tour and Appealing Danger, who ran a half-mile in 44.27 seconds.

Velazquez made a three-wide move around the turn, and Left Bank took command at the five-sixteenths pole, then cruised home an easy winner under a vigorous hand ride in the Grade 2 race. Left Bank returned $5.20 as the favorite and pushed his career earnings to $952,806.

The only anxious moments came before the race, when Left Bank had to be backed out of the starting gate. Apparently, Left Bank grew agitated by the prerace antics of another horse.

Left Bank has run races like this in the past. Last September, he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh, running seven furlongs in 1:20.73, the second-fastest Vosburgh behind only Dr. Fager's 1:20.20. At Saratoga, he ran six furlongs in 1:08.53, two ticks off the track record.

"He's a little bit of a hard horse to gauge in the mornings, because he's not a tremendous work horse," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "We always work him in company. He always needs a target, and he kind of gallops around there like a 2-year-old sometimes. But, it's part of the reason why he's still going strong at 5. He's mentally matured a lot. It was a pretty awesome performance."

Affirmed Success had a little traffic at the top of the stretch but was not gong to beat the winner. Summer Note, Express Tour, Voodoo, and Appealing Danger completed the order of finish.

Pletcher said he would like to give Left Bank the opportunity to stretch out, possibly in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 3.

New York 'Cap: Owsley finds room

The bad luck that has plagued Owsley in three prior graded stakes was about to rear its ugly head again in Thursday's $250,000 Grade 2 New York Handicap.

Approaching the top of the stretch, Owsley had just one horse beaten, and jockey Edgar Prado had a ton of horse with nowhere to go. Turning for home, he found daylight and was able to avoid more traffic trouble at the eighth pole to get out and run down 2-1 favorite Volga and win by a neck. It was a length back to Janet in third.

It was the first graded stakes win for Owsley, a 4-year-old daughter of Harlan owned and bred by Arthur Hancock. It was also the first New York graded stakes victory for trainer Randy Schulhofer since taking over for his retired father, Scotty, earlier this year.

"Before the eighth pole, I was beside myself," Schulhofer said. "I had my head buried until she got out."

Owsley had encountered traffic trouble in last month's Sheepshead Bay Handicap, where she finished fourth. She also had trouble in last year's Lake George, where she was second, and in the Lake Placid, where she ran eighth.

Thursday, Owsley's troubles started in the first turn, where Prado had to steady the filly behind Five Fishes. Prado kept Owsley reserved in last and saving ground before looking for room turning for home.

Prado followed Jose Santos, who had gotten Volga off the rail turning for home, but then needed some room in deep stretch to get out and make her run.

"At one point, I was concerned if the hole was going to open up," Prado said. But, he went on, when John Velazquez, aboard Tweedside, "ran out of horse, I was able to get through right there."

Owsley covered the 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.81 and returned $10.20 to win.

Volga had taken the lead in mid-stretch under Jose Santos but was outrun to the wire.

"Second best," trainer Christophe Clement said. "We will meet again."

That meeting could take place in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 17.