06/10/2017 12:49PM

War Story, having faced the heavy heads, can sleep after winning Brooklyn

Debra A. Roma
War Story, ridden by Javier Castellano, scores by 2 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Brooklyn.

ELMONT, N.Y. – War Story had spent the better part of the last year futilely chasing the likes of Arrogate, California Chrome, and Connect. There were no horses of that ilk in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont Park.

War Story welcomed the class relief and benefitted from a patient ride by Javier Castellano to win the Brooklyn by 2 1/2 lengths. Sunny Ridge finished second by two lengths over Tu Brutus, the 1-2 favorite. Governor Malibu, Doyouknowsomething, and Behesht completed the order of finish. Send It In, the morning-line favorite, and Idolo Porteno were scratched.

The victory was the fifth from 21 starts for War Story, a 5-year-old gelding by Northern Afleet. The $220,000 first-place purse pushed War Story’s career earnings to $1,154,305.

War Story’s most recent victory had come at Aqueduct in December, when he galloped to a front-running win in the Queens County Stakes. He was fifth to Arrogate – the leading older horse in the world – in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in January. After a fifth-place finish behind Bird Song in the Fred W. Hooper in March, War Story ran a respectable third behind stablemate Imperative in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic in April.

On Saturday, Castellano gave War Story a terrific ride as he sat second while Tu Brutus, kept several paths off the rail by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., set fractions of 24.69 seconds for the quarter, 50.06 for the half-mile, 1:15.85 for six furlongs, and 1:41.16 for a mile.

Sunny Ridge came outside of War Story around the turn and took up the chase of Tu Brutus. Castellano said he wanted to bide his time. Turning for home, Castellano guided War Story out into the clear, and he easily ran by Sunny Ridge and Tu Brutus.

“I put him in the game, but at the same time, I back up a little bit and give him a break all the way on the backside,” Castellano said. “By the three-eighths pole, I just waited, and somebody moved on the outside, very premature, early move. I didn’t want to be in that spot. At the top of the stretch, when I asked him, he took off again.”

War Story, owned by Ron Paolucci’s Loooch Racing Stables, Glenn Ellis, and Imaginary Stables, covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:31.02 and returned $10 as the third wagering choice.

“He’s been through the wars,” said Paolucci. “His class showed today.”

Jorge Navarro, the trainer of War Story, said he expected that kind of effort based on the way the gelding trained.

“I wasn’t impressed, he was training like that,” Navarro said.

The Chilean-bred Tu Brutus, coming off two very impressive races, faded badly after setting leisurely fractions.

“He said, ‘Maybe I rated him too much,’ ” trainer Gary Contessa said of Ortiz. “He said, ‘I really think I should have let him run instead of trying to slow him down.’ I don’t necessarily agree. He had the right fractions, everything was good. We’ll go back to the barn, and maybe we’ll find something.”