The Fourth of July holiday extended into the Fifth of July on the race track, with a scattering of events that could loom large later in the year.
Fantastico Roberto was quickly on the lead in the $100,000 Choice Stakes at Monmouth Park, dueled a couple of rivals into submission and drew off in the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths over They Call Me Giant. Devon Rock was third. Fantastico Roberto, an Irish-bred Refuse to Bend colt, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:47.23 on firm turf with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher. "We planned to sit close to the pace, but he took me right to the lead out of the gate," Velazquez said. "I tried to get him to relax as much as I could down the backside and he did for a bit. But as soon as the horses came back to us, he was right back in the bridle. We came to the three-eights pole and I was very confident. I thought I had a lot of horse and he just gave the answer I was looking for when I asked him." Previously raced in Italy, Fantastico Roberto scored his first stakes win and now has three wins from seven career starts.
Filly & Mare Turf
Cherokee Queen waited behind the leaders in the $200,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park, surged to the lead in the stretch and got clear to win by 3 lengths. Chestoria was second and the favorite, Quiet Meadow, finished third. Cherokee Queen, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Cherokee Run mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.33 with Julien Leparoux up.
Roaring Lion stalked the pace in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park, then battled Wildcat Brief to the wire before winning by a nose. Unwritten was 1 length farther back in third. Roaring Lion, a 6-year-old, Maryland-bred Lion Hearted gelding, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.07. "The race set up just as we thought," said winning rider Eddie Castro. "We were able to sit right behind the two leaders. In the stretch, he ran on well and dug in to hold off the other horse." Roaring Lion improved his record to 10 wins from 26 starts.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Rightly So grabbed the early lead in the $150,000 Bed o' Roses Handicap at Belmont Park and just held off the favorite, Qualia, to win by a head. McVictory was third, well back. Rightly So, a 4-year-old, New York-bred filly by Read the Footnotes, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.44 with Cornelio Velasquez up. "She always runs big, but today she wanted to go fast," Velasquez said. "The track is fast, too, but I had a lot of horse at the top of the stretch and she finished well."
J P's Gusto won the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile at Hollywood Park, perhaps not comfortably enough for those who made him the odds-on favorite. After tracking the early pace, the Kentucky-bred Successful Appeal ridgling split rivals to get to the front at the top of the lane. But his primary rival, Western Mood, came right along with him and at the end of a long stretch duel, J P's Gusto prevailed only by a neck. With Joe Talamo up, J P's Gusto finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.48, winning for the second time in three starts. "For being so young, he's so mature and very, very professional," Talamo said. "He was beat by a head or neck and then he really fought back. You really like to see that in a young horse. He was really finishing the last part."
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