07/28/2016 5:19PM

Moonlight Song returns from year's absence to give Jose Ortiz 1,000th victory

Debra Roma
Moonlight Song, under Jose Ortiz, wins the John Morrissey Stakes for the second time.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.  - Trainer Charlton Baker stood off to the side, allowing jockey Jose Ortiz to bask in the celebration of his 1,000th career victory. But it was really Baker and Moonlight Song who were the stars of this show, the veteran trainer having the 9-year-old gelding fit and ready to return from a one-year layoff to successfully defend his title in the $100,000 John Morrissey Stakes at Saratoga on Thursday.

Moonlight Song had not started since leading throughout to register a 1 1/4- length victory in the 2015 Morrissey. And the speedster used similar tactics under clever handling by Ortiz to do it again. Breaking alertly, Moonlight Song controlled the pace, fanned out wide while remaining clear into the stretch before angling back down near the inside and readily holding off several challengers to register a three-quarter length triumph over Notacatbutallama. It was a head farther back to Crackerjack Jones with the 8-5 favorite Weekend Hideaway tiring to be fourth after prompting the pace from the outset.

Moonlight Son, a son of Unbridled’s Song owned by his breeder, Albert Fried Jr., covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.92 and paid $14.80. The win was his ninth from just 18 career starts and swelled his lifetime earnings to $534,294.

“We had a little problem after the race last year, but the owners are very easy to get along with so they let me give him the time off,” said Baker. “I got him back in March, we took our time getting here, and it worked out the right way. He makes it a little easier on me because he runs great fresh and he hasn’t been abused. This is only his 18th start. But you still have to get him cranked up and ready to go. And it takes a very nice horse to be nine years old and do something like this.”

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