McGaughey scores three-peat in G1 Man o' War
By Jenny Kellner | 05/11/2014 07:02 PM ET
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey won the Grade 1, $400,000 Man o' War at Belmont Park on Sunday afternoon with Imagining, the third different horse he's saddled to victory in the race in as many years.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Imagining went right to the front to lead through an opening quarter mile in 23.94 seconds and a half in 49.13 while under pressure from Frac Daddy. Edging away from that rival entering the far turn, Imagining was confronted with a new set of challengers in Real Solution and Grandeur, but dug in grimly through the final furlong to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
"Shug told me there wasn't probably going to be a lot of speed in the race and he was coming off a couple of months off, so he'd probably show some speed and he did," said Rosario, who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby aboard Orb for McGaughey. "[Imagining] is a game horse. Every time a horse came to him, he's a fighter. I was really happy with him today."
Imagining, a 6-year-old son of Giant's Causeway who was bred and is owned by the Phipps Stable, completed the 1 3/8 miles in 2:14.33 over an inner turf course rated "good." It was the first Grade 1 for Imagining, who in his only other start in 2014 since winning the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap was second to Lochte in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in February.
"He was sharp in the paddock and he was training sharp so we felt like if he broke well, he'd probably be right up there," said McGaughey, who won the 2013 Man o' War with Boisterous and the 2012 edition with Point of Entry. "He was able to hold off a couple of pretty nice horses running at him and Joel did a great job of riding him. I thought it all worked out really well. Hopefully we can run him in the [Grade 1] Manhattan on Belmont Day [June 7].
"I'd never won the race before and now I've won it three years in a row," McGaughey added. "I'm pleased, I'm pleased for the horse."
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice behind Amira's Prince, who finished last, Imagining returned $8.50 for a $2 win bet. Now 8-4-0 from 15 career starts - including a 5-for-5 record at Belmont - Imagining has earned $813,114.
Runner-up Real Solution, who like Imagining was making his second start since November, rallied from last to finish a half-length ahead of Grandeur.
"I wish there would have been more pace," said Real Solution's jockey, Javier Castellano. "He's a come-from-behind horse, unfortunately the pace was too slow; they were walking in front. I tried to save some ground and come from behind, but it cost me the race."
Frac Daddy was fourth, followed by Vertiformer and Amira's Prince, who faded to last after running third to the three-eighths pole.
"He was having a good trip" said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott of the 9-5 beaten favorite, who was off the board for the first time in seven North American starts. "He just didn't run. We'll just have to see if something shows up back at the barn. As far as the trip went, I can't blame that."
Lucayan was scratched.