08/20/2011 7:03PM

Monmouth: Where's Sterling breaks through with first stakes win in Iselin

David Owens/EQUI-PHOTO
Paco Lopez puts a well-timed ride on Where's Sterling to win the Iselin.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Where’s Sterling rallied to beat Southern Ridge by one length in the Grade 3, $252,500 Philip H. Iselin Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

It was the first stakes victory for the 4-year-old trained by Nick Canani for owner Frank C. Calabrese.

The race unfolded with Ponzi Scheme setting a moderate pace with Southern Ridge tracking in second. Rounding the final turn, Southern Ridge took charge just as Where’s Sterling started to rev up.

They dueled briefly in the lane before Where’s Sterling and jockey Paco Lopez edged clear in the final stages.

It was the third win in eight starts for Where’s Sterling, who made his stakes debut in the previous race, finishing fourth in the Memorial Day Stakes at Calder.

“I was expecting the early pace to be a little faster, but Paco rode the horse perfectly,” Canani said. “He’s always seemed like a horse that wants to go a mile and an eighth, or maybe even longer. We got up here a couple of months ago, and he got a little sick. So it took a little longer than expected to get him back to the races, but he raced great.”

Where’s Sterling paid $8.20 to win as he ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.57 on the fast track.

Ponzi Scheme held on for third followed by Cactus Charlie; Alma d’Oro; Pleasant Prince, the 19-10 favorite; Dueling Alex and 2009 Iselin winner Chirac.

*Finale demolished the competition in the $66,100 Continental Mile for 2-year-olds on the turf.

A perfect 2 for 2 since trainer Todd Pletcher switched the Scat Daddy colt to the grass, Finale and jockey Joe Bravo rolled to a 10 ½-length romp over Channel Quest with No Play third.

The time was 1:35.24 on the firm course.