Lead Guitar bests open company in $80K Floral Park
by Ryan Martin
Jim and Susan Hill's New York-bred Lead Guitar switched tactics to best open company for the second time in a row, notching a three-quarter length score in Saturday's third running of the $80,000 Floral Park for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going six furlongs over the inner turf at Belmont Park.
Trained by George Weaver, the consistent Lead Guitar was a frontrunning 3 ¼-length winner last out against allowance company going the Floral Park distance on September 20, following a rallying victory against her Empire State-bred counterpart exactly one month earlier over the Saratoga inner turf while conditioned by Eddie Kenneally.
Lead Guitar's third straight victory gave her sire, Maclean's Music, his third stakes winner of the Belmont fall meet, having sired Grade 2 Kelso winner Complexity and Grade 1 Champagne winner Jackie's Warrior.
Breaking from post 8, Lead Guitar did not immediately go to the front as she did in her prior start. Instead, she was hustled by jockey Luis Saez early on and tracked in sixth while 19-1 longshot Sunny Dale controlled the tempo through an opening quarter-mile in 22.60 seconds over the soft turf.
Around the far turn, Lead Guitar began picking up ground as Saez gave the 4-year-old bay filly encouragement and made her way into second at the quarter pole. Through a half in 46.42 seconds, Sunny Dale kept her frontrunning position intact, but Lead Guitar, under an all-out drive, loomed large on the outside.
Just inside the furlong marker, Lead Guitar put a head in front and continued to accelerate to the wire to secure the win while holding off a late charge from Bohemian Bourbon in a final time of 1:11.45.
Bohemian Bourbon was another 2 ¼ lengths to the better of stakes-winner I'llhandalthecash in third. Rose Flower, Sunny Dale, My Sassy Sarah, Saratoga Treasure, Xanthique, Getmotherarose and Elle's Town completed the order of finish. Mitchell Road and main track only entrants Slimey and Overheated were scratched.
The victory was a fifth win in 10 lifetime starts for Lead Guitar, who know boasts career earnings of $235,678. She returned $6.40 for a $2 win bet as the post-time favorite.
"She's very nice to ride. She does everything you ask," said Saez, who piloted Lead Guitar to three of her five victories. "She has a lot of speed. Today, the ground was pretty soft, but she just came from behind and when I asked, she took off. She can run anywhere.
"Everybody was struggling. The track was pretty slow," Saez added. "But she ran great. She's always getting better. She can run from behind or in front. She's a pretty nice, honest filly."
Saez praised the filly for being able to adjust to different running styles and said that he kept an outside position because of the soft turf.
"The last time I rode her and the time before that she went to the lead pretty fast. Today, the turf was soft, and she missed the break, but she came from behind and won pretty impressively," Saez said. "I stayed outside because inside was a little bit softer. I stayed outside with her and when I asked, she gave me that kick at the top of the stretch."
Weaver's Belmont-based assistant Blair Golen praised Saez and echoed his positive sentiments regarding her adaptable running style.
"Luis [Saez] knows her so well and he knows what to do," Golen said. "One thing I love about her is that every time she races, whether she's on the lead or if she has to come from off the pace, it's not a problem for her. She's just a real racehorse. Horses like that are so nice to have in your barn and make you look good."
Bred in New York by Windylea Farm, Lead Guitar is out of the Finality mare Eleadora and was a $200,000 purchase from the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred Yearling Sale, where she was consigned by Summerfield.
Live racing resumes on Sunday with a 10-race program highlighted by Grade 2, $150,000 Knickerbocker for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf (Race 3, 1:28 p.m.) and the Grade 2, $150,000 Hill Prince for 3-year-olds going one mile over the Widener turf (Race 9, 4:47 p.m.) First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.