No joy in Muddville
By Dick Powell
You would have thought it was the stretch run of the Kentucky Derby (G1). At least for about 10 of us who all were rooting for the same horse in Sunday’s eighth race at Aqueduct.
BELLEVILLE SPRING is a 2yo gelding that ran second against open company at Churchill Downs last month for Wayne Mackey. The New York-bred gelding, by new sire, TRINNIBERG, was shifted to trainer George Weaver to race in New York and its lucrative racing program for state-breds.
Since Trinniberg stands in New York, Belleville Spring was kept eligible for the New York Stallion Series and Sunday’s feature race was the Great White Way division for 2yos going six furlongs on the main track.
Belleville Spring was foaled about 10 miles from my home by Phil Birsh, the owner breeder also of TENCENDUR, second in the Wood Memorial (G1). After his Churchill debut, he attracted a lot of attention but Birsh stayed the course. The $150,000 purse for the Great White Way helped.
It only looked like there was one horse to beat, STONEY BENNETT, who was a good second in the New York-bred Notebook Stakes last out after a bad start. The Notebook Stakes was a stronger race than a Stallion Series stakes race since New York-breds can be sired by any sire but Stallion Series runners have to be sired by a stallion that was standing in New York and made eligible for the series.
For instance, New York-bred BAR OF GOLD, sired by MEDAGLIA D’ORO and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, was not eligible for the Stallion Series but MIND YOUR BISCUITS, sired by POSSE and winner of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), was.
Usually, the group I sit with can’t agree on anything, let alone who we like in any given race. But through some odd happenstance, we all had Belleville Spring without knowing it. His odds varied before the race but he took late money and was sent off as the third choice at 4.10 to 1.
Stoney Bennett was the overbet 7 to 10 favorite and he and DEZZER dueled for the lead. Belleville Spring was bumped at the start and wound up down on the rail behind a wall of horses.
On the far outside was AQUA BEL SAR but nobody was taking him serious at 37 to 1 as he raced four wide on the turn. The leaders backed up and suddenly, Manny Franco aboard Belleville Spring had nowhere to go. It was like a harness race where you are getting a dream trip in the pocket but the pace backs up and someone has clear sailing on the outside while you are stuck.
All Manny had to do was get some running room since there was no way Aqua Bel Sar could win. His trainer, Bisnatch Parboo, was winless in 2017 and his colt was beaten over nine lengths in his career debut against state-bred maidens two weeks ago. Out in the middle of the track, Aqua Bel Sar kept going but Manny found a hole at the top of the stretch and set sail. It was just a matter of time before he ran him down.
“Come on Manny!” we all cheered, unaware until that moment that we were all rooting for the same horse. The lead was shrinking but not as quick we thought it would. We cheered even louder, begging Manny to get up in time and with about 100 yards to go, our dreams came true as he poked a head in front.
But there was no joy in Mudville since Belleville Spring used up all his energy in the stretch drive and Aqua Bel Sar came back to win by a neck and pay $77 to win.
Aqua Bel Sar was sired by Trinniberg, the same as Belleville Spring. Parboo trained Trinniberg to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and many of his recent runners were sired by him. If you told me that a second-time starting maiden, sired by Trinniberg, would win the Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Series, I would have told you, “that’s easy – Belleville Spring.”
But it was the other Trinniberg, at a big price, that won and we were left to wonder how we lost a race that we were about to win.