09/09/2016 6:43PM

Ultra Brat overcomes sluggish start to win turf debut in Christiecat

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Ultra Brat, with Joel Rosario aboard, leads a one-two finish for trainer Graham Motion in the Christiecat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Graham Motion had a good feeling that Ultra Brat would handle the turf. After all, progeny of Uncle Mo seem to handle just about anything.

Motion wasn’t feeling quite as good when he saw Ultra Brat last of 10 down the backside in the early stages of Friday’s $100,000 Christiecat Stakes on opening day at Belmont Park.

“Down the backside I thought ‘What the heck happened?,’ she’s kind of a fast filly,” Motion said from Maryland, where he watched the race on television.

According to jockey Joel Rosario, what happened was Ultra Brat broke slowly. But she finished extremely fast, rolling down the center of the Belmont inner turf course to get up in the final strides and beat stablemate Miss Katie Mae by a neck. It was a half-length back to Ava’s Kitten, the 8-5 favorite, in third.

The result gave Motion a one-two finish in the Christiecat, a race he won last year with Miss Ella, when rain forced the race off the turf.

As she was making her first start on turf and hadn’t run very fast previously, Ultra Brat went off at odds of 22-1, returning $47 to win and keying a Motion exacta that returned $258.50.

Ultra Brat hadn’t run since winning a first-level allowance on dirt at Delaware Park on July 21. Motion said he was having a difficult time finding a spot for a 3-year-old filly who wants to sprint without stepping her up too much in competition. With the Christiecat restricted to 3-year-old fillies, he felt this was a good time to try the turf.

“I’m always game to give grass a try. I’ve seen some of these Uncle Mos have run on the grass,” Motion said. “It’s hard to place a 3-year-old filly when they want to sprint. I thought in the back of my mind she’d handle it. I thought she was a little better than she showed in the morning.”

Ultra Brat had shown speed in her dirt races.  Friday, she was about 10 lengths back after an opening quarter-mile of 22.46 seconds, established by Coco as in Chanel.

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Rosario had Ultra Brat saving ground until the quarter pole, when he tipped her out wide. He had to go seven or eight wide in the stretch, but once in the clear Ultra Brat kicked in powerfully and was able to outfinish her stablemate, Miss Katie Mae, who, under John Velazquez, had split horses in midstretch and gained a short lead inside the sixteenth pole.

Ultra Brat, owned by her breeder, Alex Campbell, covered six furlongs in 1:08.07.

“I thought we were going to be closer in the race, too, but I didn’t have a good break,” Rosario said. “Right when the gate opened she kind of stepped back a little bit and she kind of missed the break. After that happened I let her settle and come with a late run.”

Motion said the manner in which Ultra Brat broke slowly caught him “completely off guard. I wish I could say I told him to do that. If I was only that smart.”

The win was third from five mounts on the card for Rosario, who also took the second on Neoclassic ($8.90) and the fourth on Mission Command ($2.90).

All-sources handle on opening day was $8,091,136, a 29.2 percent increase over last year’s figure of $6,261,269. Last year, weather forced four scheduled turf races to the main track. Ontrack handle was $964,878, a 21.3-percent increase over last year’s figure of $795,068.