07/09/2016 8:10PM

A. P. Indian prevails by head in Belmont Sprint Championship

Email
John Bambury
A. P. Indian (5), under Joe Bravo narrowly defeats Marking in the seven-furlong Belmont Sprint Championship.

ELMONT, N.Y. - It’s a huge jump from winning the Donald LeVine Memorial at Parx, even winning it two years in a row, to defeating a field that included four-time Grade 1 winner Private Zone in a race like the Grade 3 Belmont Sprint Championship. But trainer Arnaud Delacour accomplished that feat on Saturday with A. P. Indian, who outgamed another Grade 1 performer, Marking, by a head to upset the Sprint Championship and become a graded stakes winner for the first time.

A .P. Indian, who has won the majority of his races on the lead, altered tactics under jockey Joe Bravo for the seven-furlong Sprint Championship, rating behind the pacesetting Private Zone while saving ground into the stretch. A .P. Indian engaged Marking for command nearing the furlong grounds, was angled well off the fence by Bravo for the stretch drive, edged clear, and then maintained a narrow advantage to the wire to register his eighth victory in 14 starts.

Marking, runner-up to champion sprinter Runhappy in the Grade 1 Malibu to conclude his 2015 campaign, stalked the pace from the outset while racing in what appeared to be the better footing well off the rail over the main track here Saturday. Marking got on even terms for the lead in early stretch, continued on willingly upon being passed by the winner nearing the eighth pole, but was not quite good enough. It was another 4 1/4 lengths farther back to Ready for Rye, who finished a tiring third.

Private Zone, runner-up in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, showed his usual speed while making his first start since finishing a disappointing fifth more than seven months ago in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile. Private Zone, the 6-5 favorite in the Sprint Championship, was a bit headstrong setting early splits of  22.66 and 45.33 seconds for the opening half-mile, fanned wide while taken on by Marking leaving the final turn, but had  little left after six furlongs. He ultimately finished fourth, six lengths behind the winner, while not switching off his left lead until near the end.  

Green Gratto, Nubin Ridge, and Roxbury N Overton rounded out the complete order of finish.  Anchor Down and Joking were scratched earlier in the day.

A.  P. Indian, a homebred son of Indian Charlie owned by Green Lantern Stable, covered seven furlongs in 1:21.41 and returned $13.80.

“Obviously it was a huge performance,” Delacour said by phone shortly after the race. “I usually leave the options up to the rider and Joe did a great job, keeping him covered up, and he extended away in the stretch.”