SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> It took Outplay four starts to break his maiden, but when he finally did so last April, he did it impressively — by 8½ lengths. A victory in his first try against winners was followed by a third-place finish behind up-and-comer West Coast in last month’s Easy Goer Stakes.
In Friday’s $100,000 Curlin Stakes, Outplay showed he might be a horse to reckon with himself. Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, the son of Bernardini broke first and took a lead he would not relinquish. Longshot Hemsworth gave chase early, and Small Bear made a mild challenge in the lane, but at the wire Outplay was all by himself. The official margin of victory was 5 ¾ lengths; the time, 1 minute, 50.59 seconds for 1 1/8 miles over a fast main track.
Small Bear held second by three-quarters of a length over Perfect Partner. They were followed by 6-5 favorite You’re to Blame, Everybodyluvsrudy, Thirst for Victory and Hemsworth.
“I don’t know that we expected a dominant performance,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “We felt like the horse was training very well, and we felt like on paper was had a bit of a pace advantage. You never know what everyone else’s strategy is, but we felt like we had the most natural speed and we wanted to take advantage of that.”
For winning jockey Johnny Velazquez, the race went according to plan.
“We knew there wasn’t much pace in the race other than (You’re to Blame),” said the Hall of Fame rider, who was aboard Outplay for the fourth time, “so coming in, Todd and I talked,…
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