12/04/2015 12:10PM

Road to the Derby: Champagne Stakes


Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes, one mile, Belmont Park, Oct. 3, 2015

(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

 Winner: Greenpointcrusader (Sire: Bernardini)

 Trainer: Dominick Schettino

 Jockey: Joe Bravo

 Owner: St. Elias Stable, MeB Racing Stables LLC, Brooklyn Boyz Stables

 Beyer Speed Figure: 94

 GREENPOINTCRUSADER stamped himself as a top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with this victory, in which he earned a career-best Beyer Figure. The race was run on a sloppy, sealed track, so perhaps that contributed to the quality of his performance – especially considering his lofty wet-track Tomlinson figure of 409 -- but he had already won on dry land at Saratoga. Plus, being by Bernardini out of a Cryptoclearance mare, going farther should be just fine.

 Greenpointcrusader stumbled at the start of the Champagne to get away last of eight, advanced along the rail down the backstretch to a contending position mid-pack with five furlongs to go, was gradually angled off the rail around the far turn and wound up about five paths wide entering the lane, showed good acceleration through the stretch, and was pulling away at the end for a clear-cut victory.

SUNNY RIDGE, who finished second, pressed the pace outside TALE OF S’AVAIL while kept well off the rail during the early furlongs, wound up three paths wide going into and around the far turn when RALIS knifed between he and Tale of S’avail, was asked aggressively with a quarter-mile to go while getting the best of Ralis and Tale of S’avail, could not go with Greenpointcrusader through the final furlong but clearly held second in a good try.


PORTFOLIO MANAGER, who was third, broke best from his outside post but then was outrun and settled into fifth, in the clear, down the backstretch. He rallied four paths wide on the far turn, could not get past Sunny Ridge in upper stretch, raced on his incorrect lead until well inside the furlong pole, and made no impact in the late going. Considering this was only his second start and he’s still a maiden, this wasn’t a bad effort at all.

 SAIL AHOY, who was fourth, had no early speed and trailed early, raced in the clear about three paths wide on the far turn, made a mild late run but was never a threat. He has a 440 Tomlinson wet-track figure, so the off track should not have been an excuse for him.

 Tale of S’Avail, who wound up fifth, took the early lead and appeared to get into a wrestling match with jockey Cornelio Velasquez, was inside Ralis and Sunny Ridge battling for the lead around the far turn, was out-footed by Sunny Ridge in upper stretch, gradually tired through the lane and just was touched out for fourth in the closing yards by Sail Ahoy.

 Ralis, who was sixth, was outrun by the early leaders in the opening furlong, but then moved aggressively to engage them from between horses after a quarter-mile. He raced between Tale of S’Avail and Sunny Ridge into and around the far turn, was the first of that trio to yield in upper stretch, and faded through the lane.

 MAGNA LIGHT, who was seventh, raced along the rail just behind the leaders in the early going, had to check out of a tight spot when appearing to be beaten to a hole by Ralis about a quarter-mile into the race, wound up in a good spot just behind the three battling leaders, came under a ride with five-sixteenths of a mile to go when the leaders started to get away from him, and retreated.

 READY DANCER, who finished last of eight, raced in the clear in sixth during the early going, failed to keep up with a half-mile to go while racing wide, and dropped well back. He had shown good speed in his three prior starts, all sprints, but was strangely dull this time.