2020 Belmont Stakes runner-up Dr Post rallies for G3 Westchester victory
by Brian Bohl
The previous time St. Elias Stable’s Dr Post raced at Belmont Park, he finished second to Tiz the Law in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Eleven months later, the now 4-year-old Quality Road colt registered another strong effort over Big Sandy, running down Mr. Buff in the final furlong and fending off a charging Wicked Trick before pulling away for a 1 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Westchester for 4-year-olds and up going a one-turn mile.
The 93rd running of the Westchester, the first graded stakes of the 48-day Belmont spring/summer meet, saw 11-time stakes-winner Mr. Buff, in search a long-awaited first graded stakes score, sent to the front under jockey Edgard Zayas after breaking sharp from post 5. The Chester and Mary Broman New York homebred led the six-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 24.53 second, the half in 48.05 and three-quarters in 1:11.62 over the fast main track.
Dr Post, making his first start off an eight-month layoff for trainer Todd Pletcher, broke alert from the outermost post and tracked closely in second position under jockey Manny Franco.
Out of the turn, Franco asked his charge for more and Dr Post willingly responded, overtaking Mr. Buff from the outside. Wicked Trick came on strong for second, but Dr Post completed the course in a final time of 1:35.14 for his first graded stakes win.
“The fractions helped,” said Franco, who coincidently defeated Dr Post aboard Tiz the Law in last year’s Triple Crown race going 1 1/8 miles at Belmont. “Mr. Buff slowed down a little bit and I was right there. I didn’t have to rush my horse off his feet. He just took me around the right way. I think that helped me get the victory.”
Dr Post, who followed last year’s Belmont Stakes by running third in the Grade 1 Haskell in July at Monmouth Park, last raced when fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in September at Saratoga Race Course. Still the slight 7-5 favorite over Mr. Buff, Dr Post returned $4.80 on a $2 win bet and improved his career earnings to $450,635.
“Todd and the team got him ready down in Florida over the winter and he had been training really well coming into this race and ran to his training,” said Byron Hughes, assistant to Pletcher. “I think this was a good starting point for him and hopefully he can continue to progress from here.”
Wicked Trick, under jockey Jose Lezcano, edged Mr. Buff by a neck for second. A stewards’ inquiry and a jockey objection from Top Seed rider Trevor McCarthy looking into Wicked Trick potentially interfering with fourth-place finisher Top Seed at the half-mile pole and in the stretch run resulted in no change.
Wicked Trick, trained and co-owned by Linda Rice, was making his first stakes appearance in five starts and earned stakes black type for the first time in his career.
“I got the position that I wanted the whole way around,” Lezcano said. “I never crossed hands. I was forward the whole way around.”
The 7-year-old Mr. Buff, making his 45th career start, was 8 3/4-lengths clear of Top Seed. He has finished in the money in five of his last six starts.
Limonite and Backsideofthemoon completed the order of finish.
Live racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card and a 1 p.m. Eastern first post. The slate is highlighted by the Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going one mile on the main track in Race 8 at 4:40 p.m.
Starting on May 1, Belmont Park re-opened to a limited number of spectators. All admission must be purchased in advance at nyra.com/belmont/tickets/.
For comprehensive information on health and safety protocols in effect for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet, please visit nyra.com/belmont/visit/plan-your-visit/.