10/04/2014 6:07PM

Ring Weekend proves turf ability with Hill Prince score

Tom Keyser
Ring Weekend earns his second straight graded stakes victory on the turf, capturing the Hill Prince on Saturday at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Ring Weekend started the year on the Triple Crown trail. He will end it as perhaps one of the top 3-year-old turf horses in training.

Ring Weekend captured his second straight graded turf stakes Saturday, splitting horses in deep stretch under Irad Ortiz Jr. and out-finishing the longshot Daddy’s Kid to win the Grade 3, $500,000 Hill Prince Stakes by a half-length at soggy Belmont Park.

Daddy’s Kid was second by three-quarters of a length over Smooth Daddy, who was followed in order by Pumpkin Rumble, Blacktype, Mr. Speaker, Sheldon, Sloane Avenue, and Cabral.

Ring Weekend had to withstand a steward’s inquiry and a jockey’s objection lodged by Travis Dunkelberger, the rider of Daddy’s Kid, who alleged interference in the stretch. The stewards let the result stand.

Ring Weekend is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, which last week ran second with Twilight Eclipse in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic to Main Sequence. The jockey on Twilight Eclipse lodged an objection against Main Sequence for a bump near the finish line, and the stewards let that result stand as well.

“Since they didn’t put us up last week, I didn’t think they’d take us down today,” said Terry Finley, president of West Point.

In another bit of irony, Ring Weekend is trained by Graham Motion, who was the trainer of Main Sequence.

Motion was in France on Saturday but had expressed some concern about running Ring Weekend over a soft turf course. After a brief conversation between Motion and Finley on Saturday the decision was made to run. Ring Weekend had won the Grade 3 Saranac over good ground.

Ring Weekend saved ground while within four lengths of the lead established by Smooth Daddy, who ran a half-mile in 52.18 and six furlongs in 1:17.97 over soft turf. It was the only one of six scheduled turf races run on the card.

Ring Weekend followed Smooth Daddy into the stretch, then Ortiz guided him off the rail and went to split horses. Ring Weekend got through the opening, but Daddy’s Kid was rallying four wide. Ortiz, sensing his horse had more to give, went to the left-handed whip, and Ring Weekend came out and bumped with Daddy’s Kid two or three strides from the wire.

“He was fighting, I felt like he had more, so let me try a second reaction,” Ortiz said. “When I hit him, he gave me a second reaction. At the same time, he drifted out. I take a hold as soon as possible. It was right on the wire. I think that’s why it stood.”

Finley said Ring Weekend likely would go to California to run in the Grade 2, $200,000 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita on Oct. 31.