Limousine Liberal stretches out late to win G2 Belmont Sprint Championship
by Najja Thompson
With a ferocious late kick, multiple graded stakes winner Limousine Liberal tracked down fellow sprint division rival Whitmore to win the Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship on Saturday at Belmont Park, earning an all-fees-paid entry to the Breeders' Cup Sprint Division in November at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from the rail with Jose Ortiz aboard, the pair settled in fifth position as Shaft of Light emerged past Eye Luv Lulu to set fractions of 22.22 seconds for the opening quarter-mile with the half in 44.84.
At the quarter-pole, Limousine Liberal was swung out four-wide as Whitmore who raced inside throughout found an opening at the rail and ran toward Eye Luv Lulu to take the lead at the eighth-pole. Set down in a clear drive, Limousine Liberal met Whitmore at the sixteenth-pole and extended away in the final strides to secure the victory by a neck.
His final time for the seven-furlong distance was 1:21.53
"He wasn't pulling me like he usually does, so I thought they were going too fast," said Ortiz. "They went 44 [seconds] and it paid off in the end. I didn't expect Whitmore to be in front of me, so I decided to follow. I knew my horse was going to have something for the end. He decided to go the rail. I thought he was a little tired, so I went outside. But I'm glad I didn't have to check hard and I'm [happy] I was able to win the race."
Returning $5.70 for a $2 win wager, the 6-year-old Successful Appeal horse picked up his second victory of the year from three starts and first since winning the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on May 5 boosting his career earnings to $1,663,261 for winning owner Katherine G. Ball.
"I could see Jose had a ton of horse and I knew he was going to make his run," said winning trainer Ben Colebrook. "I didn't want the wire to come too soon because he was coming with a big run. I'm just glad he proved he can win outside the state of Kentucky. I thought we were in the right place. I thought maybe we'd be ahead of Whitmore, maybe not so far back, but they went so fast."
"Jose knew where to have him. It's taken me so long to find the winner's circle in New York I'm just happy for this. We'd have to think about the [Grade 1] Forego [August, 26] next but we were going to go to the Breeders' Cup even if we had to pay our own way in."
Following Whitmore in second were Eye Luv Lulu, Lewisfield, Favoroable Outcome and Shaft of Light.