Updated on 09/17/2011 10:38AM

Mariensky romps on soft turf


ELMONT, N.Y. - The $150,000 may not have been won by the best horse in the field. It was won by the horse who handled Belmont Park's soggy inner turf course the best.

Mariensky, a mare who began her career racing on the soft turf courses of France, finally broke through for her first North American stakes victory Saturday, rolling to an 8 1/4-length score in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay before 6,689 at Belmont.

Owsley, who prompted the early pace, finished second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of longshot Silent Crystal. She was followed by Sunstone, the 7-10 favorite Lilac Queen, Snow Dance, Peanut Gallery and Primetimevalentine, who was eased.

Despite heavy rains falling periodically throughout the day - which prompted two other turf races to be transferred to the main track - the Sheepshead Bay remained on the soft turf.

The fractions confirmed the turf was soft as Silent Crystal made the lead and ran fractions of 25.67 seconds, 52.90, and 1:20.70 for six furlongs. Under John Velazquez, Mariensky was rated along the inside in the early stages, followed the favored Lilac Queen when that one made her move under Jerry Bailey at the half-mile pole, and blew past the field in upper stretch.

Mariensky, a daughter of Gulch trained by Christophe Clement, covered the 1 3/8 miles in 2:28.19, almost 15 seconds slower than last year's winning time. She returned $29.40 to win.

"I think the ground was a plus to me. She liked it," said Velazquez, who won his second straight Sheepshead Bay. "She gave me that confidence to wait and wait, and when Jerry made his move, I followed him all the way around the turn. When I called on her she was there."

"The ground was a huge factor," said Clement, who received the horse from his brother Nicolas last year.

Mariensky is owned by the Waterville Lake Stable, which is comprised of New York Racing Association trustees John Meriwether and Daniel Tully, as well as Richard Leahy.

Lilac Queen, who had won her three previous North American starts, rallied from last to gain contention at the quarter pole, but flattened out in the stretch.

"I've never been on a course this soft," Bailey said. "She didn't handle it very well."