03/28/2015 2:19PM

War Correspondent chases down leader to win Appleton Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
War Correspondent wins the Appleton Stakes by a neck Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Watching the replay of War Correspondent’s last start, a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, jockey John Velazquez noticed that it took a little while for the 5-year-old horse to get going, but once he does, he really gets moving.

Velazquez rode War Correspondent for the first time in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and once the Hall of Fame jockey was able to get him in the clear, War Correspondent flew home to catch Aripeka to win the Appleton by a neck. It was three-quarters of a length back to Grand Tito in third.

The win was the fourth from eight starts for War Correspondent but his first in a graded stakes. War Correspondent is a full brother to the multiple Group 1 winner Declaration of War.

War Correspondent gave the jockey-trainer combination of Velazquez and Christophe Clement their fourth Grade 3 stakes victory of the meet.

Velazquez had War Correspondent in the second tier of horses as Aripeka, under Julien Leparoux, set the pace pressed by Excaper. The half-mile went in 47.84 seconds.

Around the turn and into the stretch, Velazquez got War Correspondent three wide and in the clear, and he set sail after Aripeka, who looked like he was going to steal the race at odds of 7-1.

But War Correspondent lengthened his stride and caught Aripeka a few strides from the wire. War Correspondent, owned by Eclipse Thoroughbreds, covered the mile in 1:34.81 and returned $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite.

“He was getting there little by little, but once I got to the 16th pole, I was almost sure that he was going to get there,” Velazquez said. “He takes a little bit to get going, but once he gets his stride together, man, he’s sweet.”

Said Clement: “I thought he got a great ride form Johnny. I wasn’t sure he was going to get there, but obviously that’s the reason Johnny’s a Hall of Fame jockey.”

Clement said War Correspondent would head to New York and likely run in races between a mile and 1 1/8 miles. One race that could make sense is the Grade 3, $150,000 Fort Marcy at Belmont Park at 1 1/8 miles May 2.