09/02/2016 6:58PM

Royal Posse repeats in Evan Shipman Stakes

Debra A. Roma
Royal Posse and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. win the Evan Shipman Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths Friday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Jose Ortiz tried to steal Friday’s $100,000 Evan Shipman Stakes at Saratoga, but his brother Irad called on the Posse to stop him.

Royal Posse, as far back as 12 lengths after a half-mile, reeled in the ambitious pacesetting Crackerjack Jones, under Jose Ortiz, to win the Evan Shipman by 5 1/4 lengths.

Crackerjack Jones, after being passed in midstretch by Ostrolenka, came back to nip that rival by a nose for second. It was 2 1/4 lengths farther back to Wake Up in Malibu in fourth. Good Luck Gus finished last.

The win was the ninth in 32 starts for Royal Posse, a 5-year-old gelding by Posse. He is now 6-6-0 from 12 starts since trainer Rudy Rodriguez claimed him for $20,000 on behalf of Michael Dubb on May 31, 2015. Royal Posse has won the Evan Shipman in consecutive years and is now 5 for 7 at Saratoga.

Rodriguez thought Royal Posse would be laying a close third in the Evan Shipman. Instead, he was 12 lengths back after Crackerjack Jones ran an opening half-mile in 46.85 seconds while building a five-length advantage over Wake Up in Malibu.

Irad Ortiz said he waited until the half-mile pole to begin asking Royal Posse, but Crackerjack Jones was still alone on the lead after six furlongs in 1:11.01.

Royal Posse came four to five wide in the stretch, and around the eighth pole Crackerjack Jones started to slow down. Ostrolenka came up along the inside while Royal Posse stormed down the center of the track, forged to the front at the sixteenth pole and drew clear.

“They went pretty fast,” Irad Ortiz said. “I let my horse be wherever he was comfortable. Last time, the pace was a little slower. He always tries hard, no matter what the pace; I just gave him a chance.”

Royal Posse covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.44 and returned $4.50 as the 7-5 favorite.

“I thought we were in trouble,” Rodriguez said. “The pace was very, very fast. Sometimes when they go that fast, you change the setup. I thought we were going to be third sitting in a good position. When I sew our horse so far back and we went pretty wide, I thought, ‘Man, I don’t know if we’re going to get there.’ But he’s a very nice horse, and he loves Saratoga, and he got the job done.”

The win was the third on the card for Irad Ortiz Jr., but he still trails his brother, 56-51, for the riding title with three cards left.