10/28/2017 4:07PM

Off Limits makes The Athenia second straight stakes win

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Robert Mauhar
Off Limits paid $3.90 in winning The Athenia at Belmont on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - In midstretch of the Grade 3 Athenia at Belmont Park on Saturday, Joel Rosario had taken the lead with favored Off Limits but had not yet asked for her best run - and the cavalry was charging from behind.

When Rosario finally changed holds and asked her to go, Off Limits responded and had just enough left to hold off late-running My Impression by a neck.

"I didn't want to make the lead too early with her," Rosario explained. "If you do, she hangs a little bit."

The Athenia was leading trainer Chad Brown's 41st victory and ninth stakes win on turf at the fall meet. He approved of Rosario's tactics.

"In a paceless race like this, when you're close to the pace, and there are deep closers, I don't think there is anything wrong with waiting as long as you can," Brown said. "I thought Joel rode her perfectly."

The win was the second consecutive stakes victory for 5-year-old Off Limits, who won the Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont in September. She was bred in Ireland and began her career there before being purchased by Martin Schwartz in late summer 2015.

Now 6 for 16, Off Limits paid $3.90 in the Athenia, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares over the Widener turf. She was timed in 1:41.73.

Off Limits was sent to Brown for her 2016 campaign but went winless in five starts. Freshened from September until June, she is 4 for 6 this season.

"We could never really get in a groove with her last year, her coat and such," Brown said. "It was very frustrating. Mr. Schwartz and I  agreed to give her an extended vacation and the time off was just right for her."

California shipper Juno set an uncontested pace of 24.52 and 48.79, but was collared by the time she reached the stretch. Puca took the lead from the outside with Off Limits sitting three wide.

My Impression came with a good run but could not get by the winner in deep stretch. It was a length back to Elysea's World, who finished well. She also is trained by Brown.

Penjade, Brown's third starter, was fourth, a nose behind Elysea's World and a nose ahead of fifth-place finisher Time and Motion.