04/08/2017 5:48PM

Send It In reels in stubborn Tu Brutus to win Excelsior

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Debra A. Roma
Jockey John Velazquez rides Send It In (left) to victory in the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Send It In needed the length of the Aqueduct stretch to run down an ambitious pacesetting Tu Brutus and win the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes by a half-length.

The win was the ninth from 17 career starts for Send It In, a New York-bred gelding by Big Brown owned and bred by Paul Pompa Jr. and trained by Todd Pletcher. After winning a pair of New York-bred stakes during the winter, Send It In faltered as the 2-1 favorite in the Stymie Stakes on March 12, finishing third.

Pletcher felt John Velazquez may have left Send It In with too much to do in the Stymie as he was nine lengths off the pace before rallying to lose by 1 1/2 lengths. On Saturday, Velazquez had Send It In racing in third position, about 3 1/2 lengths off the swift pace established by the Chilean import Tu Brutus.

Tu Brutus, making his first start since Dec. 3 and his first in the U.S., rolled to a three-length lead while running the opening quarter in 23.40 seconds, a half-mile in 47.20, and six furlongs in 1:11.19.

Velazquez had Send It In four to five wide down the backstretch as he was being kept out by Bellamy Way, ridden by Manny Franco. Send It In moved into second leaving the half-mile pole and set sail after Tu Brutus, who showed no signs of tiring after a mile in 1:36.35.

Velazquez got Send It In to switch leads in midstretch, and he gradually gained on the leader before tackling him with about 50 yards to go. Tu Brutus finished second by 14 lengths over Doyouknowsomething, who was followed by Hereditary, Discreet Lover, Admiral Blue, and Bellamy Way.

Send It In covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.07 and returned $4.10 as the favorite.

“He’s more of a steady horse, got to keep busy with him,” Velazquez said. “We came down the lane, made him switch, got busy, and he responded the right away. We got to [Tu Brutus], he got feisty, but I knew I had him. Once he put the head in front of the other horse, he idled a little bit.”

Gary Contessa, the trainer of Tu Brutus, said he had hoped to get a race into his horse before the Excelsior but could not get one. He said he left the riding tactics up to Irad Ortiz Jr.

“The horse pretty much pulled him to the lead. I don’t know if it was as much Irad’s decision as it was the horse’s,” said Contessa, who noted the 23.40-second first quarter “was was a killer. I didn’t want to see that going a mile and a quarter, but, boy, he hung tough considering the fast opening quarter.”

Pompa said he believes Send It In is “the best homebred I ever had.” Pompa said Pletcher mentioned pointing Send It In to the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn on June 10 at Belmont Park.