It was Empire Showcase Day at Belmont with the headline stakes racing being - you guessed it - the Empire Classic. The Empire Classic Handicap is a stakes race restricted to New York -reds that is run at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. Ungraded, it is open to three year olds and up and offers $300,000 in purse money.
The Empire Classic started with SEA FOAM and MR. BUFF battling to in the first quarter mile setting fractions of :24.46 and :47.94. The 2-1 favorite PAT ON THE BACK settled in three back. At the top of the stretch PAT ON THE BACK powered to the lead, holding off a late rush from CAN YOU DIGGIT to take the win by a length and a half. Final time for the 1 1/8th race was 1:49.76. CAN YOU DIGGIT came in second with MR. BUFF finishing third.
This was the sixth win for PAT ON THE BACK with Dylan Davis in the irons. "This was a great way to end a fantastic day. This horse belongs to Dylan," said owner Harold Lerner of AWC Stables.
Also on the card at Belmont was the Empire Distaff. The Distaff is a 1 1/16th miles stake race on the dirt for 3 year old and up fillies and mares worth $250,000. The Distaff featured an 8 horse field with ENGLISH SOUL and BLUEGRASS FLAG going to the front to set the pace. BONITA BIANCA held the third spot behind the pace setters. The trio held their places coming around the first turn when BONITA BIANCA made her way to the lead and pulled away in the stretch to win handily by six lengths. The final time was 1:43.18 with SPLIT TIME and TIZNOW'S SMILE taking second and third respectively.
Maryland Million History at Laurel Park
Over at Laurel Park, history was being made in the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic. The race features Maryland-sired and Maryland-bred horses. Jockey Edgar Prado took his 18th Maryland Million win and taking the record from the retired Hall of Fame jockey Ramon Dominguez.
The Maryland Million Classic is a 1 1/8 mile race for 3 year olds and up. The 7-2 SARATOGA BOB broke easily and pressed the pace set by PAL CAL. PAL CAL set fractions of 24.46 and 49.09. Coming into the first turn and the top, SARATOGA BOB took the lead turning for home, holding off challenger CLUBMAN at the top of the stretch and another late challenge by DOTHAT DANCE to win by half a length. CLUBMAN finished third behind DOTHAT DANCE.
This was the first stakes victory for SARATOGA BOB, who finished the race 1:51.28. "He. Broke good. The first couple of jumps I thought he might be a little too keen, but he settled nice on the backside. Every time someone came to me, he picked it up," Prado said. "At the top of the stretch he responded. When the horse came with a big run on the outside, I thought I was going to finish second, but he gave me more. I give all the credit to him."
Finally, we have the Maryland Million Ladies. This is a 1 1/8 miles race on the turf for three year old fillies and up with $125,000 in purse money. It was a nine horse field with a pretty easy break to start. MY VIXEN and HOT FRIESIA went to the start to set the pace, running a quarter mile in 24.12. LOVE'S LEGEND settled ahead of HOT FRIESIA who started fading into the field after the first half. Coming around the turn MY VIXEN held her lead , but MY SISTERSLEDGE made a bid down the stretch taking the win by a head over MY VIXEN with MAGICIAN'S VANITY coming in third.