EXCELSIOR STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES
Godolphin Racing LLC's Romansh fought back in the stretch to edge out entrymate and 1-4 co-favorite Long River by a neck in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct.
"I think he's a serious horse," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "We've always thought that way. I had this horse at Palm Meadows as a three-year-old and he was always (the) one that we talked about the most."
Romansh was away in good order and sat to the outside of the pacesetter Percussion, who posted opening fractions of :23 ⅗ seconds, :47 ⅘ seconds and 1:12. Taking over around the far turn, Romansh led the field heading for home.
Long River ran in third down on the inside for most of the race before angling out at the top of the stretch and rallying to grab the lead by a head just inside the eighth-pole. Romansh looked like he might be beat but dug in late to regain the advantage in the final yards and prevail by a neck at the wire for his third stakes win.
"[When Long River] came to him, I was just happy to be second to his entrymate," Albertrani said. "When I saw him coming back on again that made it even sweeter. I was very proud. We know we have a nice horse for later on, maybe Saratoga and the Whitney."
The four-year-old colt stopped the teletimer in 1:49 for the 1 ⅛-mile test over the fast inner track. He returned $2.50 to his backers for the victory.
"My horse kind of waited, but he was still running," jockey Jose Ortiz said. "[Long River] passed me, but as soon as [Romansh] felt that horse he kept going and responded very well."
Long River took second and was 4 ¼ lengths clear of Percussion in third. Dawly, Praetereo and Don Dulce rounded out the order of finish. Mr Palmer was scratched.
"That close to the wire, he waits a little bit," said jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who was aboard runner-up Long River. "He passed the horse and thought the race was over. He ran really well; he got a good trip and everything was perfect."
Romansh broke his maiden in his third start as a three-year-old last May 25 over a muddy, sealed Belmont track. He finished second, but was placed first through disqualification, in his stakes debut in his next start in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga on July 26. The dark bay crossed the wire fifth in the Travers the following month and was a well-beaten sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby on September 21.
Romansh closed out 2013 with a 9 ¼-length victory at this venue in the Discovery Handicap on November 2 and was exiting a disappointing last-of-11 finish in the Donn Handicap last month at Gulfstream Park. With Saturday's score, Romansh garnered $90,000 to increase his lifetime earnings to $373,580 from a 9-4-0-1 line.
"I was just hoping he'd redeem himself," Albertrani stated. "His last race was so confusing. He trained well before the race and he came out of the race training well. Maybe it was a matter of the surface there [in Florida] or the fact he hadn't run in a while; just a couple of different things. It just didn't figure why he would run so bad.
"He's got a good future. We'll play things by ear as far as his next race; 1 ⅛ miles appears to be his best distance so we'll work around that."
Bred in Kentucky by Darley and Lynn B. Schiff, the son of Bernardini is out of the multiple Grade 3-placed stakes-winning Go for Gin mare Cologny, who is a half-sister to Grade 3-placed stakes winner Selective as well as stakes scorer Keep it S. S. His third dam is Time Barrier, who is a full sister to multiple stakes victor Dontstopnow.
Romansh sold for $750,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale.