05/20/2017 4:56PM

Morticia noses Lull in Soaring Softly Stakes

Joe Labozzetta/NYRA
Morticia paid $7.90 in winning the Soaring Softly Stakes at Belmont on Saturday.

The Kentucky-based trainer Rusty Arnold does not start many horses at Belmont Park, but he found a nice spot there Saturday for the filly Morticia, who gamely won the $200,000 Soaring Softly Stakes by a nose over Lull.

Another three-quarters lengths back came third-place Bellavais, with late-running Con Te Partiro a nose farther behind in fourth. Lady Alexandra, just barely favored over Morticia, was sixth. Morticia paid $7.90 to win and was timed in a fast 1:19.93 for seven furlongs on firm turf.

Arnold, who co-bred Morticia along with her owner, G. Watts Humphrey, had started only 17 horses at Belmont since the fall meet of 2006, and all had lost. Morticia broke the string when she just got home under Jose Lezcano.

Team of Teams went to the lead in the Soaring Softly, which was restricted to 3-year-old fillies, and set splits of 22.33 seconds for her first quarter-mile and 45.16 to the half while pressed by Morticia. Morticia cruised up to the leader’s flank at the end of the far turn, took the lead at the quarter pole, and then braced for a challenge from Lull.

Lull and Morticia exchanged one solid bump just past the eighth pole, then brushed again as Lull’s rider, Kendrick Carmouche, lost his crop. Lezcano held onto his, and under strong encouragement, Morticia just did hold on.

Morticia, by Twirling Candy out of Halloween Party, by Mr. Greeley, ran her career record to 5-3-1-0. After winning a five-furlong sprint stakes at Gulfstream, she set the pace and held second to the classy La Coronel last out in the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland. That race, at two turns, was perhaps a touch far for Morticia, but Arnold found something better Saturday at a venue his stock rarely visits.