Beren and Manny Franco (outside) get up to beat Candy Man Rocket by a nose in the Gold Fever
Susan Quick and Christopher Feifarek’s Beren made up 5 1/2 lengths in the stretch, closing in on Candy Man Rocket with a strong outside move and gaining the edge in the final stride to win Sunday’s $100,000 Gold Fever by a nose in a thrilling finish to the six-furlong sprint for sophomores at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
The eighth running of the Gold Fever saw Beren earn his first career stakes win in dramatic fashion, running down graded stakes-winner Candy Man Rocket under coaxing from jockey Manny Franco in the feature for the nine-race card.
Beren broke sharp from the inside post, remaining unscathed as Roderick stumbled and unseated rider Joel Rosario coming out of the gate from post 3. Both horse and rider were uninjured, with the outrider picking up Roderick in the gallop out.
American Gentleman led what became a five-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.79 seconds on the fast main track, with Beren tracking in fourth position. Candy Man Rocket, under Junior Alvarado, overtook American Gentleman at the front with the half going in 46.07, and maintained the edge into the stretch.
But Beren rallied when straightened for home, as Franco gave strong left-handed encouragement. The Weigelia colt had plenty in reserve and closed the deficit in the final sixteenth before getting up in time to win the head bob in a final time of 1:11.25.
Beren, fourth last out after stumbling at the start in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 3 at Aqueduct Racetrack, notched his third win in his last four starts.
“The class relief helped. He ran with some tough horses in the Bay Shore,” Franco said. “I knew the horse belonged here. I just wanted to make sure he broke better than he did last time. Today, he broke a step slow again, but I put him in the clear and he was comfortable after that.
“He can go seven [furlongs], but I think the six furlongs made the difference today,” he added.
The Pennsylvania homebred made his first six starts in his native Quaker State before moving up to graded stakes competition last month by trainer Butch Reid.
“It was nerve-wracking, but Manny did a great job,” Reid said. “He got him straightened out and got him to switch leads and he finished really well.
“I’ve found with these Weigelias that they don’t need to be on the lead and they really like a little bit of moisture in the racetrack,” he added. “I’ve had a lot of them to train and they are all game horses and have done very well for us.”
Beren, off at 3-1, returned $8.60 on a $2 win bet and improved his career earnings to $160,420.
“I love getting that New York money,” Reid said. “There’s nothing quite like it. You know when you come here, you’ve beaten the best. It’s a special treat to come up here and win a race.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott shortened Candy Man Rocket up for his first sprint since being placed on the Triple Crown trail. After winning the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in February at Tampa Bay Downs and finishing out of the money in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino, the Candy Ride colt finished 6 1/2 lengths clear of Doubleoseven for second, earning a placing in his Belmont debut.
“I had a great trip, really no excuses,” Alvarado said. “When we got to the wire I thought we held on, but I guess we didn’t. He ran great. I think he’ll get better with experience. He’ll probably do his better running going shorter distances.”
The Wolfman and American Gentleman completed the order of finish.
Starting on May 1, Belmont Park re-opened to a limited number of spectators. All admission must be purchased in advance at nyra.com/belmont/tickets/.
For comprehensive information on health and safety protocols in effect for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet, please visit: https://www.nyra.com/belmont/visit/plan-your-visit.
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