by JOHN MUCCIOLO
Michael Dubb et al’s Fourstar Crook lived up to her 4-5 favorite’s role with an impressive, two-length tally in the Flower Bowl S. (G1) at Belmont Park on Sunday. The Chad Brown trainee qualified for a start in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) with her decisive score.
The New York-bred daughter of Freud settled at the rear of the Flower Bowl early on behind a tepid early pace, as they went in :25.71, :51.72 and 1:15.80 through six panels. The six-year-old was always traveling nicely when inching closer through the mile in 1:39.82, and she really exploded once let loose in the lane.
Fourstar Crook finished up 1 1/4 miles on the “good” inner lawn in 2:03.28 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the controls. Stable mate Onthemoonagain led after a mile and still was in front at midstretch, though she had no answer for the winner late. Lady Montdore was another 4 3/4 lengths in arrears to earn a Grade-1 placing while third.
Bred by Kathleen Feron, Fourstar Crook brought the gavel down at $110,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale. She is the first stakes winner out of the unraced D’accord mare Avril A Portugal, who is kin to Bailjumper and Honorable Miss.
The winner now owns four graded stakes wins in her career, with the Flower Bowl being her initial score at racing’s highest level.
In the $150,000 Futurity S. two races earlier, Ara Aprahamian’s Uncle Benny moved into contention approaching the midstretch mark and powered home an impressive, half-length winner. Also ridden by Ortiz, the Jason Servis trainee punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series event.
Uncle Benny was off slowly and trailed the field through splits of :22.46 and :46.30 for the opening half-mile. Ortiz angled the son of Declaration of War eight-wide at the top of the lane and the bay colt did the rest. Uncle Benny clocked six panels on the “good” Widener turf course in 1:11.26 to remain unbeaten from a pair of lifetime races.
The 56-1 outsider Backtohisroots was in with a winning chance late after getting a narrow edge in the lane but had to settle for runner-up honors. Dragic, the 3-1 favorite in the Futurity, finished another 1 1/2 lengths back when third while four lengths clear of his nearest foe under the wire.
The winner is out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Celebrity Cat, who is a half-sister to dual Grade 1 queen Starrer. Uncle Benny was bred by Peter Magnier in the Bluegrass State and fetched a final bid of $185,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.