07/15/2017 4:41PM

What a Catch can't be caught in Rockville Centre Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
What a Catch and jockey John Velazquez win the Rockville Centre Stakes by one length.

ELMONT, N.Y. – What a Catch proved uncatchable in Saturday’s $100,000 Rockville Centre Stakes, taking the lead soon after the start under John Velazquez and holding the pace-prompting Morning Breez at bay throughout to win the race for New York-bred juveniles by a length at Belmont Park.

It was six lengths farther back to Analyze the Odds in third. Morrison and Over Salty completed the order of finish. Lake Party was scratched at the gate by track veterinarian Anthony Verderosa.

What a Catch gave trainer Todd Pletcher his 17th win of 2017 with a 2-year-old and his first in a stakes. What a Catch gave his stallion, Justin Phillip, his first stakes winner.

The bettors poured it in on Morning Breez, making the 4 1/4-length debut winner on June 18 the even-money favorite over What a Catch, who had won his debut by 5 1/2 lengths on June 2. What a Catch was the 9-5 second choice.

Though What a Catch had come from off the pace to win his debut, Velazquez decided Saturday to leave the gate running, and if Rosario Montanez wanted the lead on Morning Breez, he was going to have to earn it. What a Catch had a half-length lead after a quarter in 23.12 seconds.

“It felt like we were going a sensible pace, we weren’t going too fast,” Velazquez said. “Mine was pricking his hears around the turn, so I knew he was going comfortable and he was looking around trying to wait for the competition.”

What a Catch had a one-length lead after a half-mile in 46.48 seconds and opened up a little more by midstretch before settling for the one-length score. What a Catch, owned by Gary Barber, covered the six furlongs in 1:11.21 and returned $5.80.

“By the quarter pole, I tried to get away from the other horse, and I think it worked out because now the other horse had to run to get me,” Velazquez said. “Mine had a good fight to him.”

Carlos Martin, the trainer of Morning Breez, said his horse was simply second-best.

“We had our horse right next to him, and the other horse kept on running,” Martin said. “We had the length of the stretch to get to him, and we couldn’t get to him.”

Both horses are likely to show up during the Saratoga meet, perhaps in the $200,000 Funny Cide Stakes for New York-breds on Aug. 25.