A two-horse race broke out in a field of six in Saturday’s $200,000 Dwyer (G3) at Belmont Park as Fort Bragg and Saudi Crown put on a terrific stretch duel while separating themselves by 11 lengths from the rest of the pack.
At the wire it was 7-10 favorite Fort Bragg, sporting blinkers for the first time since his maiden win, who got the nod by a nose over longtime leader Saudi Crown, the 8-5 second choice in the one-mile test for three-year-olds. Harrodsburg held third and was followed by Joey Freshwater, Alternate Reality, and Prove Right.
“We were rolling at a good pace [and] Javier (Castellano on Saudi Crown) was keeping his horse in front,” winning jockey John Velazquez said. “I thought at the quarter pole I was going to win pretty easy. I put a half-length in front of him and the other horse kept fighting. I kind of hung a little bit, but the other horse kept running.
“With the blinkers today, he was pretty professional. I’ve got to say that he was pretty easy to handle.”
Fort Bragg races for an eight-entity partnership that includes Madaket Stables, in whose silks Fort Bragg sported to victory. The Bob Baffert trainee paid $3.40 after completing the course in 1:35.37 over a fast track.
The Dwyer was the first stakes win for Fort Bragg, who won one of four starts and placed in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) at two. Temporarily transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen earlier this year while pursuing Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifiers and racing at Churchill Downs, for which Baffert was unable to participate due to a suspension, Fort Bragg finished fifth in the San Felipe (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) before falling a neck short in the Pat Day Mile (G2).
“I was afraid he’d be a little keen early with the blinker, but without the blinker he loses focus and he just wanders,” Baffert said. “I think the horse is getting it together now. He’s really improving and filling out. He’s a beautiful horse and I think he liked that one turn.”
Fort Bragg was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock and Henry Field Bloodstock. By Tapit, he’s out of the stakes-winning March X Press, by Shanghai Bobby. He’s now won twice in eight starts with earnings of $321,300.
Later in the card, Three Technique registered the first graded stakes win of his career by a comfortable margin of 3 3/4 lengths in the $250,000 John A. Nerud (G2) for older sprinters.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Three Technique prevailed over 20-1 chance Synthesis, who edged second choice Candy Man Rocket for second by a head. The order of finish was completed by Sheriff Blanco, Little Vic, Twisted Ride, ad 1.65-1 favorite Weyburn, who broke slow and trailed throughout.
A six-year-old by Mr Speaker, Three Technique paid $13.60 after covering 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:22.88. He’s owned by David Miller, Eric Grindley, and John Werner, and is trained by Jason Cook.
Three Technique registered his only prior stakes triumph in the restricted Knicks Go S. at Churchill Downs on the 2022 Kentucky Derby Day undercard, but his best previous run arguably was a neck second to current star Cody’s Wish in last year’s Hanshin S. Three Technique has placed in five other stakes, including a third in the 2021 edition of the Nerud.
Three Technique has now won six of 31 starts with earnings of $808,237. Bred in Kentucky by Omega Farm and Bally Breeders, he was reared by the Grade 2-placed Nite in Rome, by Harlan’s Holiday.