Obviously’s speed proves a royal flush in Poker

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June 18th, 2016

Veteran speedball Obviously is tough to catch when he’s loose on the lead, and the Southern California shipper found his ideal scenario at Belmont Park in Saturday’s $300,000 Poker (G3).

Trainer Phil D’Amato was initially considering the June 4 Shoemaker Mile (G1), a race Obviously had won in 2013-14. But he ultimately decided to give the 8-year-old a softer spot in his return from a four-month holiday, and the Poker was made to order for Fanticola & Scardino’s colorbearer.

Sprinting right to the fore with Jose Lezcano, the 2-1 favorite got away to an easy lead through an opening quarter in :23.07 – well within his compass on the firm Widener turf. Obviously ratcheted it up from there, zipping along in :45.96 and 1:08.70. He extended his margin to 3 3/4 lengths while finishing the mile in 1:31.65. That final time was just .02 off Elusive Quality’s course record, which was nearly equaled by Celestine’s 1:31.64 in the June 11 Just a Game (G1).

“The horse is a freak,” Lezcano said. “He's something else. He broke well and went out with no trouble. The second-quarter I had to get him relaxed. He started to jump at the bit, but heading for home he did it easy and got going again. Looking at the splits, he just kept going faster and faster. I think he's a very nice horse.”

“He's coming into his own,” assistant trainer Chris Davis said. “He's sound, he's happy, he's fit. He seems like he's starting to relax better. He really is just maturing. He's one of those horses that you don't want to run every two or three weeks, you've got to hand pick the best races for him, but he's really doing well. We couldn't be happier with him.”

Force the Pass rallied into second, but had no chance with the winner. As if pursuing a fresh Obviously on a lightning-quick surface around a one-turn mile weren’t daunting enough, Force the Pass was also conceding eight pounds as the 124-pound co-highweight. He’s yet to duplicate his Belmont Derby (G1) fireworks from last July, but Force the Pass is too consistent not to regain the winning thread.

Offering Plan made late headway for third, followed by Takeover Target, defending champion King Kreesa (in search of his third Poker title), and Grand Arch. The latter two both chased early and wilted late. Grand Arch appears to be better suited to two turns these days, so he’s eligible to rebound back at the Spa.

Obviously’s scorecard now stands at 27-12-6-3, $1,787,737, and he has won or placed in a total of 15 stakes. In addition to his two Shoemaker Mile trophies, the Irish-bred son of Choisir is also a two-time winner of both the American (one G2, another G3) and the Del Mar Mile (G2), as well as the hero of the 2012 Arroyo Seco Mile (G2). He'd missed by only a neck in his two outings early this year, caught by Flamboyant in the January 2 San Gabriel (G2) over 1 1/8 miles and by Bolo in the February 13 Arcadia (G2) back at a mile. 

Obviously has participated in the past four runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), with his best effort being a third to Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom at Santa Anita in 2012.

Anyone on scene at Churchill tonight might want to tell Wise Dan that his old buddy Obviously is still capable of upholding the form on his day.

Photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Joe Labozzetta.