Sunday’s stakes on yielding turf at Belmont Park resulted in graded breakthroughs for two performers who’d gone close before. In the Hill Prince Stakes (G2) for sophomores, Get Smokin just held on from odds-on favorite Decorated Invader, while Devamani topped an all French-bred Chad Brown exacta with Olympico in the Knickerbocker Stakes (G2).
Hill Prince Stakes
Decorated Invader, the 0.45-1 choice, was forecast to thrive back down at a mile after a fifth in the Saratoga Derby Invitational. Somewhat overlooked was the fact that Get Smokin, the trailer in the same 1 3/16-mile race, could make a similar case. Two starts back, Decorated Invader had run him down in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), but there turned out to be key differences here. Aside from the rain-soaked ground, Decorated Invader lagged much further behind early, and Get Smokin didn’t have to carry his speed as far.
Under a well-judged ride by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, the Tom Bush trainee doled out fractions of :24.25, :49.52, and 1:13.05 on the Widener course and spurted away from the pack in the lane. Decorated Invader, an unhurried sixth early, gathered momentum after Get Smokin had stolen a march. The favorite was gaining with every long stride, but too late, and the wire came in time for Get Smokin. The 7-1 chance kept his head in front in 1:36.95 and paid $17.40.
Bodecream reported home two lengths astern in third. Buy Land and See nipped Starting Over for fourth. Next came Glynn County and early gadfly Assiduously. Chocolate Bar and main-track-only Money Moves were scratched.
Get Smokin is by Get Stormy, a multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire for the same connections. Get Stormy was a homebred for Mary A. Sullivan, who acquired Get Smokin for a bargain $11,000 as a Fasig-Tipton-Kentucky October yearling.
Both trainer and jockey were mindful of their links with Get Stormy.
“(Castellano) rode his sire,” Bush said, “and I told him in the paddock to ride him just like Get Stormy, and he said, ‘that’s what I’m going to do.’”
“The way I handicapped the race, I felt the horse would fit the mile perfectly,” Castellano said. “The last race was a little longer. The last time the horse won, I was on him when he broke his maiden last year.
“When I got to the paddock, the first thing (Bush) told me was, ‘ride him like Get Stormy,’ and that’s what I did. I rode his father at Keeneland and New York, too. Today, he was so patient. I was walking the dog, basically. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
Decorated Invader’s rider, Joel Rosario, cited the ground as a factor.
“With the soft ground, it’s hard to close,” Rosario said. “He ran well. He put in his effort. Turning for home, I had to start moving. Then, the horse in front of me came out a little bit, so that got him out of balance. He ran a good race. He looked like he was going comfortable. He was trying hard, but it’s just too bad we couldn’t get them.”
With this first stakes coup to his credit, Get Smokin has bankrolled $211,540 from a 10-2-3-2 line. The chestnut gelding had placed a close second in the Kitten’s Joy (G3) and Dania Beach, and third to Decorated Invader in the Cutler Bay, prior to their Saratoga rematches.
“I’ve thrown this horse to the wolves,” Bush said. “He’s one of these rare horses that you’ll see – horses that run very out of their condition and they don’t get discouraged and keep being a top runner – and that’s the type of horse he is. You’re not breaking his spirit.
“He’s a terrific gate horse, which really helps when you have speed like he has. He gets away from there in stride for being a long, leggy kind of horse. He really is handy leaving there. The last race (Saratoga Derby) was disastrous for him, which made him very anxious, so he was going way too fast early. He ran against some very nice 3-year-olds early in the year and he’s running against them now, so he fits in this group.
“He’s a little bit high octane, especially for a gelding. He’s very kind in the stall, but aggressive in his training. Get Stormy was very, very aggressive himself.”
Bred by Hurstland Farm and James Greene Jr. in Kentucky, the well-named Get Smokin is out of the Smoke Glacken mare Hookah Lady, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes victress Spanish Pipedream. This is also the family of champion Dayatthespa, front-running winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Rosario had the 3.40-1 Devamani in a better tactical spot in the Knickerbocker, and Brown believed that a short-lived equipment experiment helped. Devamani was dropping too far back early, so blinkers were added last time in the Sept. 7 Lure at Saratoga. Although they didn’t quite work that day, as he was along for third and ditched the headgear here, the shake-up apparently made the 6-year-old veteran more willing to get into the game early.
The Aga Khan-bred son of Dubawi was perched in a ground-saving third behind pacesetter En Wye Cee, who got away with splits of :25.66 and :51.13 on the inner course. Breaking the Rules, the slight favorite at 2.25-1, kept tabs on the leader. Moving up into a challenging spot at the 6-furlong mark in 1:15.58, Breaking the Rules appeared poised to pass in the stretch, only to stall in the bog.
In contrast, Devamani was enjoying the conditions as he tipped out and took aim. Rolling home by two lengths, the chestnut gelding finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.78 to earn his first stakes victory.
Olympico, last of the quintet early, closed for second in the Knickerbocker for the second straight year. En Wye Cee was just another neck back in third, followed by Breaking the Rules and Seismic Wave.
“He was just there for me and was able to go along early and he kept going,” Rosario said. “To be up a little closer with the slow pace, he was on his game. He always runs hard. He had been unlucky a couple of times and he got the job done today.”
“Joel really rode him perfect,” Brown said. “We got the position we were looking for with him. We put the blinkers on him because he was falling so far out of position in his races and it didn’t really work out. He wasn’t happy with them. When we took them off, what it left us with was a little sharper horse. Putting them on and taking them off, even though we took a defeat last time, might have been the final piece of the puzzle for this horse just to put him in the race a little bit.”
Brown was satisfied with having the top two finishers, but added that Olympico didn’t get the trip he envisioned.
“He was a little out of position,” the trainer said. “I thought he would be ahead of Devamani early. I was surprised they flip-flopped. Irad (Ortiz) thought he gave him a good run. Fortunately, he was able to squeak out second there.”
Sanford Goldfarb and Samuel Abraham’s Devamani has compiled a record of 25-5-8-5, $401,232. Originally trained in his native France by Alain de Royer-Dupre, he broke his maiden in his sixth attempt and trailed in his stakes debut in the 2017 Prix du Prince d’Orange (G3). Devamani was then sold to Christophe Clement for €62,500 at the Arqana Arc Sale and came stateside, where he was eventually claimed by Goldfarb for $62,500 at Saratoga last summer.
Since joining Brown for his 2020 campaign, Devamani immediately ventured into graded company and missed narrowly in the Tampa Bay (G3) and Fort Marcy (G2).
Devamani is now the fourth stakes winner produced by Daryakana, who as a sophomore beat older males in the 2009 Hong Kong Vase (G1). The Selkirk mare is also responsible for Group 1-winning highweight Dariyan as well as fellow French stakes scorers Dariyza and Darabad. Devamani’s second dam, Daryaba, captured the French Oaks (G1) and Prix Vermeille (G1) in 1999.
“He’s a neat horse,” Brown observed. “He’s a very well-bred horse. He’s always been at the top of his game in his training, his looks and such.
“This horse has a pedigree to get better when he gets older. I’m not shy to run 6, 7 or 8-year-olds on the turf. Sometimes, they find their feet there. I’ll talk to the ownership group and see, but this horse is running super. We may run him one more time (this year) or we may not. But I’m looking to run him as a 7-year-old.”