10/22/2009 12:00AM

Operation Red Dawn a success

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ELMONT, N.Y. - It was a long time coming, but Operation Red Dawn finally became a graded stakes winner Thursday, running past pacesetting Lemon Cream Pie at the sixteenth pole and drawing clear to a 1 1/2-length victory in the at Belmont Park.

Lemon Cream Pie finished second, 6 1/2 lengths clear of Brave Tin Soldier. Cherokee Speed, Danak, and Yorktown completed the order of finish. Proudinsky, the morning-line favorite, was scratched by the stewards due to licensing issues concerning the company from which Johanna Louise Glen-Teven - the listed owner - leased the horse. Proudinsky was formerly owned by Gary Tanaka, who was convicted of fraud charges last year, and had to surrender his license.

The Knickerbocker was the ninth graded stakes in which Operation Red Dawn participated, beginning with his third-place finish in this same race in 2007.

"He's been knocking on the door for like three years," said Christophe Clement, who trains Operation Red dawn for Dion Recachina. "He s a 7-year-old gelding. He belongs to a wonderful owner-breeder from California. I trained the dam [Afaladja] a long time ago, so it's fun."

The Knickerbocker victory came one day after Clement won the with Belle Allure. Both the Knickerbocker and the Athenia were moved from last weekend by New York Racing Association management due to weather.

"It worked out pretty good for me, I must say," said Clement, who won the Knickerbocker for the fourth time. "I support NYRA's management completely on that one."

Operation Red Dawn, under Rajiv Maragh, saved all the ground sitting in the second flight while Lemon Cream Pie, under Eddie Castro, set an uncontested lead of 23.75 seconds for the quarter, 49.51 for the half-mile, and 1:13.89 for six furlongs.

Turning for home, Maragh took Operation Red Dawn off the rail and they rallied past Lemon Cream Pie inside the sixteenth pole. Operation Red Dawn, a son of Miswaki, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:50.21. The favorite by $288 over Brave Tin Soldier, Operation Red Dawn returned $7.

"I followed the eventual runner-up all the way," Maragh said. "When he made his move coming off the turn I was within range to move with him. I had a fair shot of running him down and my horse kind of pulled away at the end. When they go that slow you want to be close, and fortunately he put me in that position where he was close handily."