07/05/2013 4:50PM

Monmouth Park: Change of Command comes on late to win Elkwood Stakes

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Change of Command, the last horse to make a move, got there first in the lively $76,500 Elkwood Stakes on the turf Friday at Monmouth Park.

A 6-year-old gelding trained by Michael Trombetta, Change of Command captured his first stakes, and eighth victory in 22 career starts. He collared Sleepless Knight by a neck in 1:33.33, the fastest mile run at Monmouth with the turf rail set 36 feet out from the hedge. The actual course record for a Monmouth grass mile is 1:31.23 by Mandurah in 2010.

The key to the Elkwood win was patience by jockey Joe Bravo, not moving until the last possible moment in a race with a killer pace on a brutally hot and sticky afternoon on the Jersey Shore.

The race unfolded with Tune Me In, Street Game, Hop Skip and Away, and Wrote scrambling for early position. That battle eventually evolved into a two-way tussle for the lead between Tune Me In and Street Game.

While they fought it out, the Teletimer told a punishing tale as fractions of 22.98 seconds, 45.69, and 1:08.77 flashed up.

Sleepless Knight, the 2-1 favorite, was first to pounce on tiring leaders, looking like a winner with a furlong to run until the massive Change of Command came barreling home.

“This is a really special horse,” Bravo said. “I’ve been riding for about 25 years and I think this is probably the biggest horse I’ve rode.”

Owner-breeder Wayne Morris said the Maryland-bred has been lightly raced because of his size.

“Being so big, we didn’t want to take a chance of him breaking down,” Morris said.

Change of Command paid a hefty $12.40 to win.

Tune Me In held on for third. Street Game was fourth followed by Hop Skip and Away and Wrote, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner.