11/26/2016 5:30PM

Mo Town turns in big effort to win Remsen Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mo Town, with John Velazquez aboard, wins the Remsen Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – As confident as trainer Tony Dutrow was that his 2-year-old Mo Town was going to run a big race in Saturday’s Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct, he didn’t necessarily know if that would be good enough to win it.

The horse was coming off a two-month layoff, missed a scheduled start in the Nashua in early November due to a sore gluteal muscle, and was facing a fast and formidable foe in Takaful.

But none of that mattered Saturday as Mo Town rallied past the pacesetting Takaful in midstretch and easily held No Dozing at bay to win the $300,000 Remsen Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths and give Dutrow and his new partners reason for optimism as they look ahead to the colt’s 3-year-old year.

“I feel very strongly we have not seen what this horse is capable of yet,” Dutrow said in the winner’s circle.

What we have seen so far is a talented, well-bred colt – he’s a son of Uncle Mo – who has now won two of three starts, including a graded stakes going 1 1/8 miles around two turns. The win in the Remsen gave Mo Town 10 qualifying points toward the May 6 Kentucky Derby under a system utilized by Churchill Downs should the Derby, as usually happens, draw more than 20 entrants.

Mo Town won despite having to be the one to make the first run at Takaful, who was bet to 4-5 favoritism after an impressive maiden wing going 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont on Oct. 29. Takaful broke awkwardly, and when he recovered, he dragged jockey Jose Ortiz to the lead, opening up a 4 1/2-length advantage after running an opening quarter in 23.47 seconds.

Mo Town, under John Velazquez, was fourth going into the first turn, but when neither Newman nor Win With Pride decided to go after Takaful, Velazquez felt he had to with Mo Town and moved him within a length of Takaful after a half-mile in 48.84 seconds.

“Nobody wants to go with him, so I had to do the dirty job,” Velazquez said.

Mo Town tracked Takaful from a length behind through six furlongs in 1:14.02. Mo Town drew closer approaching the quarter pole, drew on equal terms at the three-sixteenths, and moved into the lead before the eighth pole. He extended his advantage in the final furlong, which he ran in 12.71 seconds, and covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.59. He returned $10.40 as the second choice.

“I thought in watching the race that Mo Town was very comfortable the entire race,” Dutrow said. “I’ve always felt like he was a good horse; for him to prove this much so far, I got to feel great.”

Mo Town lost his debut on Travers Day at Saratoga and then won a one-mile maiden race at Belmont by seven lengths on Sept. 24. It was after that race that Dutrow and his Team D Stables sold a majority interest in Mo Town to the Coolmore connections of Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor.

Dutrow said Mo Town would winter in Payson Park in Florida, and if it was up to him, he would like to bring the horse back to New York for the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 4.

No Dozing, coming off a fourth to Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity, had a wide trip, breaking from post 9 under Daniel Centeno, and was simply second-best.

“He ran great. I wish he would have had the opportunity to save a little bit more ground,” trainer Arnaud Delacour said. “Nobody to blame, just circumstances. We had an outside post. It’s a little bit hard, but he ran a really good race.”

Takaful had everybody excited after his eight-length maiden win at Belmont. Still, going from one 6 1/2-furlong race to 1 1/8 miles is a big jump, and the awkward start definitely didn’t help.

“The break didn’t help us, and he looked like he was pretty keen the first eighth after the break, but he dug in and held on for third,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Following Takaful, the order of finish was Win With Pride, You’re to Blame, Tale of Silence, Tellmeafookystory, Hookup, Newman, and Lead Astray.