06/27/2009 11:00PM

Porte Bonheur by a nose in First Flight


Porte Bonheur passed her seven-furlong test Sunday at Belmont Park using a determined rally under Ramon Dominguez to nip a stubborn Spirtely by a nose to win the .

It was another half-length back to Turn Away, who was followed in the order of finish by Iron Butterfly, Sunday Geisha, and Carolyn's Cat.

The victory was the sixth from 11 starts for Porte Bonheur, and her first beyond six furlongs. Porte Bonheur is a Kentucky bred-daughter of Hennessy owned by Johanna Murphy-Leopoldsberger and trained by David Duggan. It was the first Grade 2 victory for Duggan, who has never won a Grade 1.

Porte Bonheur was sent off a slight favorite over Carolyn's Cat despite the fact Carolyn's Cat had beaten her by 3 1/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Vagrancy on May 24. But handicappers figured the pace scenario would favor Porte Bonheur on this day and they were right.

Dominguez had Porte Bonheur in the second flight of horses as Carolyn's Cat and Sunday Geisha battled through a quarter of 22.74 seconds and a half-mile in 45.13. Spritely, who had been part of the duel through the opening quarter, dropped a bit off the pace to race right outside of Porte Bonheur.

Spritely, under John Velazquez, got first run on Porte Bonheur and made the lead turning for home. Dominguez tipped Porte Bonheur four wide in the stretch and she was able to gradually wear down Spritely. Porte Bonheur, who is now 6 for 11, covered the seven furlongs in 1:22.45 and returned $6.

"This was a legitimate test for her, to see if she could get the seven furlongs," said Duggan. "If she didn't get the seven-eighths, we'd have to regroup. We'll see how she comes out of the race. The Ballerina [at Saratoga on Aug. 29] has been a main goal for the year. For her to be a Group 1 filly, she had to get there in the right progression"

Porte Bonheur won two stakes last summer at Saratoga including the Grade 3 Victory Ride.

The First Flight was the third win of the day for Dominguez, who seems poised to take the Belmont riding title in his first time riding this meet full-time. He has 67 wins, 23 more than Rajiv Maragh.

No one hit the pick six on Sunday, creating a one-day carryover of $42,936 into Wednesday's program.