Saturday’s running of the Belmont Stakes might not live up to the finish on Friday afternoon in the Brooklyn Handicap, one of several high-profile races run at Belmont Park the day before the last leg of the Triple Crown.
Before a national television audience on the NBC Sports Network, the $700,000 Grade II Brooklyn Handicap saw 7-1 Calidoscopio pull off not just an upset but perhaps one of the greatest closes in racing history. Down 22 lengths at the midway point of the 1 ½ mile Brooklyn Handicap, jockey Aaron Gryder was out of the picture for much of the race. Focused primarily on early leader Percussion and big name Ruler on Ice, the track announcer said of Calidoscopio that “he was way out of the race right now” at the halfway point.
“Right now” is not how the race finished.
Out of the race from nearly the first turn, Gryder made a move on his Argentine ride ahead of the final push on the sloppy track and worked his way toward the middle of the pack. With congestion along the inside of the field of eight horses, Gryder moved toward the middle of the wide Belmont track to find open space. It was a move that lengthened his distance to the finish line but gave a clear path to the front.
At the quarter-mile pole, Gryder was just 5 ½ lengths from the front, and as he moved from the inside to about five-wide from the rail, he continued to gain on pacesetter Percussion. In the end, it was Calidoscopio in a show of will and sheer guts who overtook Percussion to win by nearly a full length. It was a tremendous late push as Calidoscopio clocked an official time of 2:31.64 at a rain-soaked Belmont Park.
“He gallops pretty much for the first mile, mile-and-an-eighth, and then from that point on, we pick it up and he just continues to grow in his stride,” Gryder said. “I felt good at the three-eighths pole. I’m sure, visually, it didn’t look that impressive, but I know he just keeps getting stronger. At the eighth pole, I said, ‘I think I can get there,’ and at the sixteenth pole, I said ‘I’m going to run them down.’ He’s such a character. He’s been racing for eight years and he’s seen it all.”
Against a solid field that included Ruler on Ice, who won the Belmont Stakes in 2011 as a gelding, Calidoscopio became just the second ever 10-year old to win a graded stakes race in North American racing history.
The horse has now earned a reputation for late pushes.
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