by NYRA Press Office
Gold Square's Cleon Jones, the 6-1 fourth choice in a field of five, prevailed in a three-way photo finish to capture Friday's $150,000 Bertram F. Bongard, a seven-furlong sprint for New York-bred juveniles at Belmont Park.
Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, who also saddled 3-2 mutuel second-choice Moonachie, Cleon Jones settled in fourth position under Irad Ortiz, Jr. as Three Jokers marked the opening quarter-mile in 23.16 seconds on the fast main track.
Moonachie, who broke poorly under Jose Ortiz, pressured the front-running Three Jokers though a half-mile in 46.71 with even-money mutuel favorite City Man tracking in third inside of Cleon Jones.
Three Jokers maintained a precarious lead through the turn as Moonachie continued to menace, with City Man and Cleon Jones looming full of run. A stubborn Three Jokers persevered on the lead as Ortiz, Jr. asked Cleon Jones for his best run with City Man also surging outside of the tiring Moonachie.
Cleon Jones, moving best late in the lane outside rivals, found the wire first by a head in a final running time of 1:22.88. Three Jokers stayed on strong to earn second by a nose in front of City Man. Completing the order of finish were Moonachie and Theitalianamerican.
Ortiz, Jr., aboard Cleon Jones for the first time, said his colt was full of run when asked.
"I was in a good position throughout and just followed the instructions of Jeremiah," said Ortiz. Jr. "He told me he likes to be out in the clear and he was responding very well every time I asked him. He was coming so I just kept riding him hard, and he got there on time."
Englehart said he was pleased with the effort of both his entrants.
"Originally, I liked the spot Moonachie was in. I told Irad that he'd have to get Cleon into the clear to get his best running," said Englehart. "It seemed like he was able to do that early on in the race. Moonachie probably just got a little compromised by the start and maybe came back a little quick. I thought they both ran well."
Bred by Empire Equines, the dark bay Tale of the Cat colt was purchased for $325,000 at the March OBS. He banked $82,500 in victory while improving his record to 2-1-0 from four starts. He paid $15.60 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing continues on Saturday at Belmont with an 11-race card, highlighted by the Grade 3, $200,000 Noble Damsel in Race 8 and the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso in Race 10. First post is 1 p.m.