By NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y. – Jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Chad Brown proved to be a winning combination on Saturday at Belmont Park, teaming up to sweep both stakes on the day’s card with Engage in the Grade 3, $150,000 Futurity and with Rubilinda one race later in the $200,000 Pebbles.
Making only his third career start, Engage broke from post 6 with Ortiz aboard and stalked comfortably from last in the field of five, as Red Peril raced to the front setting fractions of 22.52 seconds for the opening quarter-mile with the half in 45.76.
Engage moved wide through the turn as the field reached the quarter-pole and, swinging out four wide in full drive at the top of the stretch, Engage surpassed his foes taking the lead at the eighth pole. He extended away to win comfortably by 3 ½ lengths and to complete the six-furlong distance in 1:10.09.
“[He’s a] really nice horse,” said Ortiz. “The first time he ran, I knew he was a good horse that day and he came back and won and last week he worked tremendous. With the post that I had today, I knew he was going to be tough. When I asked him to go at the three-sixteenths, I got the hole and I went outside Johnny [Velazquez, aboard Mojovation], he really exploded. He gave me a great turn of foot.”
Returning $3.10 for a $2 win wager, the son of Into Mischief earned his first graded stakes win boosting his career earnings to $156,400 for owners Woodford Racing.
He’s shown quite a bit of improvement in each of his starts,” said Brown. “I was telling his owners in the paddock how much he’s filled out since his last race. This horse is in a growth spurt right now and I like the face we’ve kept him sprinting for now. Hopefully, he continues to develop physically and we’ll stretch him out as we go. . I think the [Grade 2, 200,000] Nashua makes sense [at one mile] if we choose to bring him back in that time frame and keeping him one-turn for now. Going around two turns we’ll see how he develops.”
Following Barry Lee in second was Mojovation, Red Peril, and Smooth B to round out the order of finish.
Ortiz was back aboard a Brown trainee in the next race as Rubilinda held on for a narrow victory over Party Boat in the Pebbles for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the Widener turf.
Rubilinda, in her fourth career start, was slow to settle as she raced midpack through the early going while Sylphide drew away to lead the field of nine through an opening quarter mile in 23.03 seconds, and a half in 46.46. Ortiz gave Rubilinda her cue at the top of the lane and the highly regarded Frankel filly dug in through the stretch and held off a late challenge from stablemate Thais and a hard-charging Party Boat to win by a nose. Thais was a head back in third, followed by Lido, Sylphide, Scheme, Bellavais, Dynatail, and Adorable Miss to complete the order of finish.
The final time was 1:34.71. Rubilinda returned $4.40 for a $2 win wager as the 6-5 favorite.
The Pebbles was Rubilinda’s second straight stakes win, following the Christiecat on September 8 at Belmont, and her first attempt going further than seven furlongs. The win was also the third on the day’s card for Ortiz, who also won Race 5, a 6 ½-furlong claiming race, aboard Professor Snape ($8.30).
“She’s been a great filly since the first day I rode her,” said Ortiz. “She was very impressive in her debut. Stretching out to a mile has been a little complicated for me and her to get along, because she’s going to be a little keen. She trains like that in the morning, a little keen too.
“I think with this mile now and probably the next one, we’ll find a race for her,” he added. “I think it’s the perfect distance for her. Today, she learned a lot of things, she’s going to keep learning.”
Bred in Kentucky, the lightly raced Rubilinda owns three wins from four starts with her only defeat coming with a runner-up finish to Cherry Lodge in a July 9 allowance contest at Saratoga.
“She ran well,” said Brown. “She was still a little green there down the lane, switching leads and the such. He [Ortiz] said when he pulled her into daylight a little earlier than she had been, she was pulling a little bit, so she still has some learning to do, but she ran good.”