ELMONT, N.Y. - Alto Racing's Anchor Down took the lead a few short strides out of the gate and never looked back as he rolled to a two-length victory over Tamarkuz in the Grade 2, $350,000 Kelso Handicap, the second of six graded stakes on Super Saturday at Belmont Park.
With Tamarkuz on his flank, leading a closely bunched field of rivals, Anchor Down strode through an opening quarter-mile in 23.30 seconds, then picked up the pace under jockey Javier Castellano, getting the half in 45.74. Launching a bid rounding the turn, Tamarkuz confronted Anchor Down at the quarter-pole but the 5-year-old gray son of Tapit shrugged off that challenge and pulled clear to hit the wire in 1:32.90 for the mile.
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the field of five, Anchor Down returned $6 for a $2 win bet.
"My main concern was focusing on breaking good out of the gate because this horse has had a couple of issues out the gate," said Castellano. "He got a good clean trip and a good break so using my best judgment, I put him on the lead. He's a great horse. He's a pro and he showed up today."
The Kelso was the second victory of the year for Anchor Down, who in May was a front-running winner of the Grade 3 Westchester, also at a mile. Subsequent to that he finished second to Frosted in that one's record-setting victory in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, and then was sixth in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 30 at Saratoga Race Course.
"He's run well every time in a one-turn mile at Belmont, it seems to be his thing," said trainer Todd Pletcher of Anchor Down. "It was no disgrace being second to Frosted in the Met Mile that day - I don't think anyone was going to beat Frosted. To come back and run a mile in 1:32 and 4/5, as a well-bred son of Tapit, it's a big win for him."
Now 5-2-2 from 16 lifetime starts, Anchor Down increased his bankroll to $719,254. Pletcher said the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita next month is under consideration, but that the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on November 26 at Aqueduct Racetrack is more likely for Anchor Down's next start.
"We'll wait and see how he comes out of it," said the trainer. "I would probably think a one-turn mile is a little more to his liking [than the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita going two turns]. We'll enjoy this one for the moment, but if I were guessing right now I'd probably lean toward the Cigar Mile."
Tamarkuz was 4 ½ lengths in front of Ocean Knight, with Point Piper checking in fourth and Tommy Macho fifth. Baccelo and Upstart were scratched.
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