Mr O'Brien finally get his trip in Kelso
ELMONT, N.Y. -- The last time Mr O'Brien ran in a mile race, he beat seven overmatched rivals by nine lengths in the ungraded Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico in May.
In Saturday's Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont Park, Mr O'Brien beat a decidedly better field. Mr O'Brien defeated Millennium Dragon by 1 1/2 lengths in the Widener turf race. Millennium Dragon finished a nose in front of Gulch Approval in third.
Stroll, the 2-1 favorite, was next under the line in fourth. King of Happiness, Willard Straight, Proud Man, and Christine's Outlaw completed the order of finish.
Ridden by Eibar Coa for the first time, Mr O'Brien saved ground down the backstretch before making an outside move entering the stretch. Longshot Gulch Approval held a narrow lead with a furlong to go, but was overtaken by Mr O'Brien and Millennium Dragon. Stroll pressed the pace set by Christine's Outlaw, owned a brief lead with a quarter-mile remaining, but weakened.
Mr O'Brien ($11.80) covered the distance in 1:32.69 over a firm course. The time was the second-fastest in 11 runnings of the Kelso at its present distance.
Coa noted that Mr O'Brien had some unlucky trips this year in Grade 1 races going longer and he wanted to make sure he kept the 5-year-old gelding in the clear.
"I watched this horse's last five races," Coa said. "He seems like he always has enough to win, but he is always in trouble. My main thing was to keep him out of trouble, even if he got beat, I didn't want the guilt on me."
It's unlikely that either Mr O'Brien or Millennium Dragon will head to the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30 because they would need to be supplemented to the tune of $135,000 each. Instead of running for the $350,000 purse in the Kelso, both the winner and runner-up competed for $100,000 less because they aren't Breeders' Cup eligible.
Robin Graham, who trains Mr O'Brien for Skeedattle Stable, said, "there are a lot of grass races around" besides the Breeders' Cup.
"Now that he has learned to relax and kick at the end, he can run any distance from a mile to two miles," Graham said. "He's had some traffic problems in his other races, but not today. [Coa] rode him perfectly."