Fourstar Crook repeats in John Hettinger Stakes

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

At Belmont Park on Sunday, for the second year in a row, Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stable and Gary Aisquith’s Fourstar Crook (Freud) won the 1 1/8-mile, $125,000 John Hettinger Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares. To do so this time around, however, the mare had to overcome a 22 1/2-length deficit behind a blistering pace.

The dramatic victory, which Fourstar Crook made look easy in the end, was a more-than-fitting tribute to the race’s namesake, who bred her dam Avril a Portugal.

A Chad Brown-trainee, Fourstar Crook had an eight-race winning streak snapped at Saratoga on August 25 when she was beaten 1 1/4-lengths by Bar of Gold in the Yaddo Stakes, but was well-backed at .75 cents on the dollar to find her way back to the winner’s circle in the Hettinger.

For the first half-mile of the race, Barrel of Dreams spurted off to lead a spread-out field through testing opening fractions of 23.38 and 46.07, while Fourstar Crook trailed by nearly 23 lengths. Even with just three furlongs to go after Barrel of Dreams clocked six panels in 1:09.17, Fourstar Crook still had nearly 20 lengths to make up. She entered the stretch three wide with lots still to do.

Fourstar Crook inhaled the deficit in the stretch and, at the sixteenth pole, overhauled the leg-weary pacesetter, as well as Tizelle, who had been chasing 10 lengths behind in third. Edging clear, Fourstar Crook kicked away to win by 3 1/2 lengths. After a blistering mile in 1:33.73, the final time was 1:46.05.

Tizelle kept a nose ahead of Brown-trainee Ack Naughty in third, while Barrel of Dreams hung on for fourth. Next across the finish line were Feeling Bossy, Flipcup, Summersault, Jc’s Shooting Star and Bonita Springs. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“It was kind of a funny race,” said jockey Javier Castellano. “I didn’t expect [it] to be that way on paper. I was kind of concerned the horses in front spread the field and I had to use my filly a little before than I’m used to.”

Castellano continued, “I had start going by the half-mile pole and she had a good, strong kick. I’m very fortunate to be the pilot because no matter what you do she always shows up and gives you a consistent race. I really have to give credit to Chad and his team for how good she’s been this year.”

Brown also felt uneasy as the race unfolded. “I was a little concerned with the pace in front. Both of our horses were so far back and the turf’s been very firm this week. We were concerned as they were heading for home that [Fourstar Crook] might not be able to reel them in, but she’s something else.”

“She’s amazed me,” Brown continued. “She has a big strong kick and she got there in plenty of time.” The conditioner is considering Woodbine’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor on Sunday, October 15 for the mare’s final start of the year.

The 2017 Hettinger was Fourstar Crook’s fifth career stakes victory. She also earned graded black type this year on July Fourth when she won the Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes at Parx. From nine wins and two seconds in 13 starts, she has earned $649,050.

Bred by Kathleen M. Feron, Fourstar Crook sold as a yearling to Allied Bloodstock at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale for $55,000. Michael Dubb bought her the following year at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Spring sale of 2-year-olds for $110,000.

Of her five winning siblings out of the Hettinger-bred mare Avril a Portugal by D’Accord, Coaltown Legend (Jump Start), earned over $325,000. Avril a Portugal mare currently has a yearling filly by Freud and delivered a Freud colt on April 19, 2017.

The renowned Hettinger breeding program also stamped the male division of Sunday’s paired New York-bred turf races. The Ashley T. Cole run earlier on the card was won by Get Jets, out of Sunny, another Hettinger-bred mare. Both horses were foaled at Hettinger’s Akindale Farm in Pawling.

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