Joseph wins US$400 000 Woody Stephens Stakes
BELMONT – Barbadian trainer Saffie Joseph Jr added yet another jewel to his quickly growing collection when his 7-1 chance Drain the Clock upset the field to win the US $400 000 Grade 1 Woody Stephens Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Joseph, who only a week ago notched added-money successes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey and Gulfstream Park in Florida, partnered with the Slam Dunk Racing-owned chestnut colt to beat the three-year-olds by a neck in a time of one minute, 22:27 seconds, going 1 400 metres.
Drain the Clock, with the experienced Jose Ortiz aboard, looked beaten a furlong out with favourite Jackie’s Warrior getting the better of a heated duel, but produced a late surge to snatch a narrow victory at the wire.
“We talked it over so much with [co-owner] Nick Cosato [of Slam Dunk Racing] and he wanted to break well and use him for the lead,” Joseph said.
“We just left it up to Jose. We told him the break was important and to make (Joel) Rosario [aboard Jackie’s Warrior] make a decision. If they’re going to let you lead, lead.”
He continued: “Obviously, Jackie’s Warrior missed the break and after that he ran up on the inside and we were in a good spot. If we were good enough then we were going to win.
“At the quarter pole, I thought we were going to be second. It looked like he was backing up a little bit. He dug in after that, and then Jackie’s Warrior wouldn’t give up. All credit to the horse.”
Drain the Clock broke smartly and set a searing pace through the early stages before Jackie’s Warrior stormed up the inside to lead at the quarter, run in 22.09 seconds.
A fierce duel ensued with Ortiz keeping Drain the Clock glued to the leader’s flank, and the pair had opened up a four-length lead on the field at the half-mile completed in 44.19.
In the stretch, Jackie’s Warrior continued to lead by half-length, but Ortiz, who filled in at the last moment for his injured brother Irad Ortiz, got the best out of the colt in the dying yards.
“It was great. It’s great for racing. That’s what it’s all about, people want to come here to see those kinds of duels,” winning jockey Ortiz said of the stretch battle.
“It was a great race, everybody gave their best. I’m just happy we came out with the win and I’m happy filling in for Irad and not messing it up.
“He told me the horse was very classy, Saffie was great, and the owner was great, too. The owner was the one that told me if you can outrun him (Jackie’s Warrior) out of the gate and make him go inside, that would be great, to have him inside of us.”
Joseph also found success further south east, where he produced a double at his home base at Gulfstream Park to increase his lead in the standings at the Hallandale Beach oval.
His 2-1 bet Raison the Glass captured the U.S. $21,000 first race over 1,700m beating the three-year-old and upward maiden fillies and mares by half-length, before favourite Take Me As I Am trounced the three-year-old and upward maiden fillies and mares by 4 ¼ lengths in the U.S. $23,000 seventh race over 1,500m.