08/04/2013 5:10PM

Saratoga: Justin Phillip rallies to win Vanderbilt

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Michael Amoruso
Justin Phillip and jockey John Velazquez win the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap by two lengths Saturday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Justin Phillip became a Grade 1 winner while further muddling the already wide-open picture in the sprint division when rallying for a decisive two-length victory over Bahamian Squall in Sunday’s $400,000 Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

Delaunay, the 8-5 favorite in a compact field of five, finished fourth after vying for the lead throughout.    

Justin Phillip’s victory in the six-furlong Vanderbilt helped to erase the memory of his near miss in the event a year ago, when he finished second, beaten a neck, by Poseidon’s Warrior. It may also have earned him the opportunity to go back to the Breeders’ Cup this fall. Justin Phillip finished fifth in the 2012 BC Sprint.

With John Velazquez back aboard, Justin Phillip sat a dream trip just off an honest pace set by the once-beaten Gentlemen’s Bet and forced from the outset by Delaunay, the pair posting splits of 22.00 seconds for the opening quarter and 44.46 for the half-mile. Justin Phillip eased up three wide to challenge the leaders while leaving the turn, forged to command near midstretch, and gradually edged clear.

Bahamian Squall, close up from the outset but pinned down near the rail inside Justin Phillip for the opening half-mile, finally got clear outside horses once settling into the stretch and rallied belatedly to be up for second by a neck over Gentlemen’s Bet.

Delaunay weakened late and finished another neck back in fourth. Caixa Eletronica trailed throughout.

Justin Phillip, a 5-year-old son of First Samurai, is owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen. He completed the distance in 1:08.59 over a fast track and paid $8.30.

“Last year’s Vanderbilt was a good opportunity for him, and I thought it was unfortunate for him not to win that day,” said Asmussen, who also won the Vanderbilt in 2010 with Majesticperfection. “For everything to work out, to have him in this position today, a good draw, a good set-up, was very rewarding.”

Asmussen couldn’t speak highly enough about Justin Phillip and the way he shows up and runs his race every time, over every surface, no matter where the trainer has sent him or whom he’s sent him up against.

“I have so much respect for Justin Phillip as a racehorse,” Asmussen said. “He hasn’t held any of the mistakes we made with him against us. We were trying to win the Derby with him when he was 3. He’s got a lot of talent, and for him to travel as much as he has and run as well as he has consistently, and probably put his best race up today in a Grade 1 to go over a million dollars in earnings is very rewarding.”     

John More than 1 year ago
The race is at Santa Anita, I think one of the locals will step up. Fast Bullet for Baffert is coming back firing and the winner of the Bing Crosby won after being 4 wide the entire trip on a strong rail bias track........................I think Sahara Sky is pointing for the Mile, 6fur is a tad short for him, but hey, thats why its called a horse race ! WHO KINOWS ? Hey, has Brad Free ever picked a horse over 3-5 ?
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
He has, but not many. At least he always has an opinion.
Bob More than 1 year ago
You're only as good as your last at bat. 2 months ago Jimmy Creed was the best sprinter . Before that Comma to the top. Have 10 sprint races have 10 different winners. BC sprint is flip of a coin. There is no BEST . It's who wins that day.
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Comma To The Top was never considered the best sprinter nor was Jimmy Creed. comma is a Grade 2 sprinter and Jimmy Creed was on a role against decent sprinters.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
What does Welsch mean when he writes "wide-open" sprint division? To me, the division is very clear at the top, with Sahara Sky the pro-tem leader and far out in front for the Eclipse. The Vanderbilt only solidified his status. Sahara Sky beat Justin Phillip twice earlier this year in grade 2 races at Santa Anita. And Sahara Sky was able to ship successfully to New York to run 2nd in the gr.1 Carter and then win the Met Mile over Cross Traffic, Flat Out, and Carter winner Swagger Jack among others. Comma to the Top, 4th and 3rd in those same 2 Santa Anita stakes, went East and won the gr.3 Tom Fool. And another Cali horse, Fast Bullet, won the grade 2 True North. So, things seem fairly clear to me. Sahara Sky is the firm division leader, with the Zayat duo of Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip 2nd and 3rd. The division is only muddy if you restrict your analysis to Eastern based sprinters.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Do they give eclipse awards in august ? A grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga carries a lot if weight.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Did I write that they should go ahead and give the Eclipse to Sahara Sky ? I simply wrote that I don't think the sprint division is unclear, at this point. Sahara Sky is the clear leader of the division. Do you dispute that he's the clear leader for the Eclipse?
Mark More than 1 year ago
I dispute the importance of being a " clear leader for the eclipse" on August 4th. Ask Game on Dude . What does your opinion get you ? What does it get the connections on August 5th?
Jordan More than 1 year ago
When I first commented I wasn't offering an out of the blue opinion on the subject of whether Sahara Sky or anyone else was the clear leader of the sprint divsion. I was Responding to Welsch's declaration about the division being unclear and muddled. In my opinion, whether it's is early August or not, that comment from Welsch was a disservice to Sahara Sky who, in my opinion, is the clear leader of the division. Thus, in my opinion, the sprint division is not unclear or muddled at the top. So, I wasn't even the person who first commented about the clarity of the division. I guess if you have a problem with folks talking about the state of a division or which horses are at the forefront of a division, you should have a bigger problem with Welsch than with me, because HE was the one who raised the subject in the first place.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Clear leader on August 4th gets you nothing .
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Points Offthebench has to be considered as well after his Bing Crosby win. Hes 4 of 6 and is the most scary of the group due to his of improving still. Lightly raced, fast and can track.
Gomez More than 1 year ago
With Rosario now going to ride Goldencents it could move him up a little, and I don't think he needs much. Also have Roman Threat coming back very soon now, 9 works since 6/7 and the last few are bullets, he is very fast. Agree Sahara Sky is the clear leader at this point, but things should start to get interesting. BC Sprint should be a great race.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Sure, lots can still happen. But horses like Points, Goldencents, and Roman Threat, horses either returning from layoff, just now making their stakes debut, or just now focusing on sprints will have to string together a couple of major wins and hope Sahara Sky doesn't win another race of importance the rest of the year to get the Eclipse. Of late, the Eclipse for male sprinter has come down to the BC Sprint. but that hasn't always been the case. Kodiak Cowboy, Benny the Bull, Lost in the Fog, Aldebarran, and Smoke Glacken all won the Eclipse having either missed the Breeder's Cup or having run poorly in the BC Sprint.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Mark23 hours ago Assmussen YEP!
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Fort Larned.......Don't cherry pick.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Pick rhymes with? And I posted Alpha with Cross Traffic and Fort Larned . And thanks for keeping tabs . I own you little Jeffie. Do me a favor . Still waiting for a winner an exacta and a triple . Lol. Cherry pick that !
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
One out of three in a five horse field...attaboy.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Yep. Won by 3 at 3-1. Great pick . Value .Won like a 3-5
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Thanks for posting this gem of insight. A worthy reward, indeed.
Mark More than 1 year ago
And I post yet another winner. 3 red choice in a give horse field. And Jeffie AGAIN chimes in after the fact. Lmao. You get no more response from me. None . You are a joke..
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Gave you a shot.
Julie Gregory More than 1 year ago
this horse is a monster. wont loose another race this year. bet the farm on him in the breeders cup sprint and count your money
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Sorry but I see this all the time. As you say, he might not lose a race again this year, but he will never be loose on the lead.
Tyler Mathis More than 1 year ago
I'll pass. This horse has always been inconsistent.
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
Was that the first race you ever watched? Lose not loose.
Julie Gregory More than 1 year ago
not quite my friend. ive watched the triple crown races 3 times in the past 4 years thank you.
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
Julie my dear, different track, bigger field, tougher horses. good luck.
Will More than 1 year ago
and that makes u an expert, lol?
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
He can't beat Points Offthebench at Santa Anita.