by Brian Bohl
Turf War rallied from last of eight to run down Brooke Marie in deep stretch and prevailed by a neck to win her first race in North America, capturing the six-furlong $100,000 Christiecat for sophomore fillies on Friday, Opening Day of the Belmont Park Fall meet.
Owned by Martin Schwartz, Turf War entered her Belmont debut with respective third and fourth-place finishes against allowance company this summer at Saratoga Race Course after starting her career in France. On a rain-soaked afternoon, the War Front filly stayed off the speed as 2-1 favorite Saint Moon led the field through an opening quarter-mile in 21.87 seconds and the half in 44.82 on the yielding inner turf.
Out of the turn, the Christophe Clement-trained Brooke Marie overtook Saint Moon from the outside as Turf War, under jockey Joel Rosario, was tipped out wide and made a late charge in picking off six opponents one-by-one before edging out Brooke Marie in the final jumps, hitting the wire in 1:09.99.
Off at 8-1, Turf War returned $19.60 on a $2 win bet. She more than doubled her career earnings to $94,057.
“She was sitting comfortably. It looked like they were going quick up front and she came with a run and got the money,” Rosario said.
Chad Brown, who won the H. Allen Jerkens award for the Saratoga meet’s leading trainer, picked up the first stakes win of the Belmont meet.
Brooke Marie a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, earned blacktype for the first time in three stakes starts, finishing 3 ½-lengths clear of stablemate and German-bred Rose Flower for second.
“I had a great trip right behind the speed,” said Brooke Marie jockey Junior Alvarado. “I waited as long as I could and when we turned for home, I asked her. She responded well but got a little late at the end. She ran a great race but we were second best today.”
Peaceful, Saint Moon, Queen of Bermuda, Dancing Vega and Comedy completed the order of finish. Jennemily was scratched.
The Christiecat was the first of 45 stakes worth a total $11.525 million in purse money for the 37-day Belmont fall meet, which will offer seven Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers in total.
Racing continues Saturday with three stakes, featuring the conclusion of the innovative Turf Triple Series with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series race offering a berth in the Longines Turf. Also on tap is the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks for sophomore fillies to conclude the Turf Tiara, and the $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational going 1 ½ miles on the main track. NBC will have live nationwide coverage from 4:30-6 p.m. Eastern.