Mark Schwartz’s Brooklyn Strong proved too strong for 1.25-1 favorite Ten for Ten in Saturday’s $145,500 Remsen Stakes (G2) at a sloppy Aqueduct, staying on best late to earn 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The first graded stakes winner for trainer Daniel Velazquez, and for sire Wicked Strong, the bargain $5,000 juvenile was coming off a victory in the Oct. 24 Sleepy Hollow for New York-breds at a mile. Brooklyn Strong had also won over a mile in his Delaware Park debut. His only loss was a third on the cutback to 7 furlongs in the Oct. 2 Bertram F. Bongard, so the added ground here figured to suit. But the Remsen marked a step up in class, and he was an overlay as the 7-1 fourth choice in a five-horse field.
Bettors stuck with Ten for Ten, despite his losing as the 1.35-1 favorite in the Nashua (G3) last out. A rider change back to Jose Ortiz (who had ridden Brooklyn Strong in his latest), a more sensible pace scenario, and his maiden romp in the slop all suggested that Ten for Ten could rebound in similar conditions.
That calculation appeared to be accurate for the first mile of the Remsen. Ten for Ten got away with a comfortable lead through fractions of :23.67, :47.86, and 1:12.69. His Nashua conqueror, Pickin’ Time, stalked before retreating, and promising track-and-trip maiden winner Known Agenda wasn’t able to maintain his position either.
But Brooklyn Strong was on the move for Joel Rosario. Fourth early on the outside, the bay gelding advanced into second on the far turn and emerged as the only potential challenger to Ten for Ten. The longtime leader’s grip on the race grew more tenuous by midstretch as Brooklyn Strong gained momentum. Although Ten for Ten tried to respond and kept digging in, Brooklyn Strong wore him down by a neck while finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.60.
“I broke well and it looked like they were running away from me a little bit, so I had to ride him to get position,” said Rosario. “I didn’t want to let him fall back, so I rode him to stay within a couple of lengths. I was happy with how he was progressing, and I was confident he was going to have something left for the end.”
“He was responding to me and I didn’t know how much horse I had, but I felt like we were moving very well. I was confident he would keep moving forward. I had to ride him a little bit.”
Velazquez was right that Brooklyn Strong would relish the 1 1/8-mile trip and handle the slop.
“I was very confident going in,” his trainer said. “I knew the distance was key, and I was confident about the off track. I was happy with his performance. He really dug in. Today was a big showcase for him against tougher competition and I couldn’t be happier.
“It’s tough. They paid a lot of money for him (Ten for Ten, a $410,000 Keeneland September yearling) and we paid $5,000,” Velazquez added. “You start to second guess yourself, but I knew he had the heart to grind it out.”
Ten for Ten, the beaten favorite again, took home 4 Derby points. There was an 8 3/4-length gap back to Known Agenda, who pocketed 2 points in his stakes debut. Pickin’ Time crossed the wire almost the same margin back in fourth, good for 1 point. The 26-1 longshot Erawan trailed throughout and ended up a long-way last.
Brooklyn Strong was winning a race that had narrowly eluded sire Wicked Strong, a half-length third to Honor Code and Cairo Prince in the 2013 Remsen. He’d go on to score his signature win over the same course and distance in the 2014 Wood Memorial (G1), an itinerary that could suit Brooklyn Strong as well.
“We’ll come back healthy and then start picking our spots,” Velazquez said. “This is a big prep for the Derby moving forward. Now, we’re definitely Derby dreaming.”
Bred by Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan in the Empire State, Brooklyn Strong initially brought $30,000 as a weanling at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Fall Sale. He RNA’d for $42,000 at the same company’s New York Bred Yearlings Sale the following August, but was led out unsold for a scant $6,000 at OBS that October. He next turned up at the OBS Spring Sale, held in June this year, when Schwartz picked him up.
Brooklyn Strong has now earned exactly 39 times his purchase price – $195,000 – from his 4-3-0-1 line. Unveiled for a $30,000 maiden claiming tag at Delaware Park Sept. 12, he rolled by three lengths from Alwaysinahurry, who later placed in the Maryland Nursery. Brooklyn Strong propelled himself straight into stakes company, and his Sleepy Hollow score came at the expense of Eagle Orb, the subsequent winner of the Notebook.
Out of the stakes-placed Medaglia d’Oro mare Riviera Chic, Brooklyn Strong descends from the family of Grade 2 winners Recoup the Cash and Summer Applause. Further back in the female line, one finds Canadian Hall of Famer Victoria Park.