Ortiz earns graded triple in Belmont’s Sheepshead Bay, Westchester and Fort Marcy
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Heavily favored Sea Calisi made her American debut a winning one, taking the lead in midstretch and going on to a 2 1/2-length victory in the $196,000 Sheepshead Bay (G2) on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Owned by Martin Schwartz, who bought the four-year-old filly in Europe and turned her over to trainer Chad Brown, Sea Calisi was content to save ground at the back of the pack as Robillard led through an opening quarter in :25.47, with the half going in :52.09.
Still last on the far turn but roused by jockey Jose Ortiz as the field straightened for home, Sea Calisi made a quick move to grab the lead approaching the eighth-pole and hit the wire in 2:18.90 for 1 3/8 miles over the yielding turf.
"The plan was to cover her up, so that's what I did for most of the race," said Ortiz, who won five races on the card, including the Westchester (G3) and Fort Marcy (G3). "I took her to the outside a little before the quarter-pole and she did it all by herself. I just showed her the whip a couple of times and she just rolled by them and then I tried to ease her up and save some horse for next time.
"I was worried about the slow pace," he added. "It was a small field but I think she was the best horse of the race. She finished third in the (Yorkshire) Oaks (Eng-G1). She's a great filly and I want to thank the owner and the trainer for the opportunity."
Sent off at 3-5, Sea Calisi returned $3.30 for the win as she extended her career record to 3-1-3 from eight starts. On her resume already were a victory in the Prix de Malleret (Fr-G2) at Saint-Cloud, a second in the Prix de Royaumont (Fr-G3) at Chantilly and a pair of third place finishes in the Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille (Fr-G1) at Longchamp.
"What I liked about her coming from Europe is that she has a magnificent turn of foot," Schwartz said. "She won the Malleret in France and then she came very close to winning the Yorkshire Oaks to two fabulous horses, Covert Love and Pleascach. She lost a neck and a neck in York and probably should have won the race but (her jockey) couldn't get her out soon enough.
"I'll leave where we go next up to Chad," he added. "We'll see how she comes out but I think she's got a bright, bright, future."
Guapaza, also trained by Brown, finished second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Robillard.
Ortiz got his stellar day going when Alto Racing's Anchor Down splashed his way to a convincing 6 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Westchester (G3) at Belmont Park. The five-year-old ridgling picked up his first stakes win and stamped himself a contender for the $1.25 million Metropolitan H. (G1) on June 11.
Most recently seen finishing fourth in the Carter H. (G1) in April, Anchor Down was sent straight to the lead by Ortiz, where he ticked off fractions of :23.28, :46.88 and 1:10.84 with Stormin Monarcho and Samraat in pursuit. Shaking clear of those rivals once straightened for home, the five-year-old gray son of Tapit rolled unchallenged to the finish line, covering the mile in 1:35.10 over the muddy, sealed track.
"The horse broke great and when I asked him to go at the quarter-pole, he just exploded and gave me everything he had; I didn't have to use my whip," Ortiz said. "I didn't push him too much and he gave me a great run."
The victory was the first of the year for Anchor Down, who began 2016 with a pair of third-place finishes at Gulfstream Park, including the Gulfstream Park H. (G2), in which he was disqualified and placed fourth. Overall, he is 4-1-2 from 13 career starts and now has earned $276,920.
"This race has been on our radar for a while," said Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "I wasn't surprised he won so convincingly; he's put in some big efforts before against some nice horses. He'd breezed well for this race, and he'd been training well since his last race.
“The Metropolitan Handicap is possible; we'll see how he comes out of this."
Sent off at 9-5, Anchor Down returned $5.70 for the win. Dual Grade 3 winner Samraat, making just his third start since June 2014, was second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Mylute.
"He ran terrific," said Rick Violette, who trains Samraat for My Meadowview Farm. "It was nice to see him handle a little bit better quality of horse than he ran against last time. Moving forward we are going to have a lot of fun.
"We'll think about (the Met Mile)," he added. "Really, his 'A' game is running a little bit further than a mile. This was a perfect spot timing wise. I'll talk with the owner and see what his thoughts are but the Met Mile isn't out of the question."
Later on Belmont’s Saturday card, Ironicus stalked the pace and rallied down the stretch to record a 1 1/2-length win in the $150,000 Fort Marcy (G3) on the yielding inner turf.
The Stuart S. Janney III-owned gray colt bested Smooth Daddy, who was 15-1 but strong out of the gate and game until the end. Ironicus hit the wire in 1:50.82 for 1 1/8 miles to register his sixth career victory in 12 starts while making his 2016 debut.
"(It was a) perfect trip," Ortiz said. "He broke good. I was three-wide the whole race but I didn't want to get behind horses and fight him. Coming in, I thought he was the best horse and he proved it.
“I'm thankful to (trainer) Shug (McGaughey) and Mr. Janney for the opportunity. They bought him in fit for his comeback and everyone in the barn did a good job getting him ready and it showed today."
McGaughey saw Ironicus return in impressive fashion following a layoff to recover from a minor fracture in his right fore cannon bone. Ironicus, who last started in September 2015 in the Bernard Baruch H. (G2), now has won three of four graded contest, with one second-place showing, to improve his career earnings to $663,615.
"We had him really going in the right direction last year, and then he hurt himself, which happens," McGaughey said of Ironicus, who returned $3.80 for the win. "But we're glad to have him back."
The victory at 1 1/8 miles was the longest of Ironicus' career, and McGaughey indicated he might stretch the five-year-old even farther in the $1 million Manhattan (G1) at 1 1/4 miles on Belmont Stakes Day.
"I haven't thought about it, but the Manhattan could be a consideration," he said. "We always thought he wanted to go a little father than what we were running him – 1 1/16 miles in the Dixie (G2), a mile back here and at Saratoga and then 1 1/16 miles…that could be a very good possibility. We'll see."
The Tom Albertrani-trained Smooth Daddy finished in the money for the third time in his last four starts. He set the early fractions of :25.78 and :51.28 and also led after three-quarters of a mile in 1:14.98 before Ironicus took over.
Sea Calisi photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography
Anchor Down photo courtesy of NYRA/Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography
Ironicus photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography