by NYRA Press Office
Robert S. Evans' White Flag ran down 3-5 favorite Big Handsome in deep stretch and fended off his rival by a neck to win his stakes debut in the third running of the $100,000 Allied Forces for 3-year-olds on Sunday at Belmont Park.
White Flag stayed off the pace as Hardened went to the front, going the opening quarter-mile in 22.07 seconds with the half in 44.28. Out of the turn, Big Handsome, under the direction of Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, took the lead on the inside before Joel Rosario piloted White Flag to a stretch-drive surge, hitting the wire in 1:07.14 for six furlongs on the firm inner turf, just off the course record of 1:06.87 set by Gantry in 2011.
After two straight victories, White Flag moved up to stakes company for the first time in six starts and first since a summer freshening. The War Front colt extended his winning streak to three, outlasting a graded stakes veteran in Big Handsome to improve to 3-0-2 in five turf starts for trainer Christophe Clement.
"We gave him the summer off on purpose to have a fresh horse in the fall. I loved the way he trained coming into this," Clement said. "I ran him too far early on and he proved his top class. A son of War Front, and the time was remarkable. He ran a good race. I was very pleased with the way he finished. Joel gave him a great ride and he was in perfect position throughout to get past the favorite in the stretch."
Rosario improved to 2-for-2 aboard White Flag, including a win last out on July 16 at Belmont.
"He broke good out of the gate. It looked like the favorite stumbled a little. I took my spot for a little bit, and my horse was fine," Rosario said. "And after that I was just trying to hold my spot, always thinking to have one good run.
"I was always keeping an eye on the horse to beat in front of me and he put a nice run in.When turning for home, he was moving very well. And I got to [Big Handsome] and was trying to get a jump on him and [my horse] responded well. He was ready for me the whole time."
Off as the 5-2 second choice, White Flag paid $7.30 on a $2 win bet. The Kentucky homebred improved his career earnings to $168,000.
Big Handsome, who was third in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in his previous start August 4 at Saratoga Race Course, finished three-lengths clear of Proforma for second, finishing in the money for the sixth consecutive time for trainer Tony Dutrow.
Fact Finding, Harlan's Harmony, Jewel Heist, The Money Monster and Hardened completed the order of finish. Toga Challenger, a main-track only entrant, was scratched.