Pat On the Back recovers from poor break to win the Empire Classic

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

NYRA/Coglianese Photos

By Bill Heller

Any pre-race strategy jockey Dylan Davis had regarding his mount on Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stable’s four-year-old colt Pat On the Back went out the window at the start. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the field of 10 contesting the mile-and-an-eighth $300,000 Empire Classic on New York-bred Showcase Day at Belmont Park Saturday, Pat On the Back lunged when the starting gate opened and nearly went to his knees.

Davis didn’t panic. He let Pat On the Back regain his balance and then delivered a flawless ride, rallying Pat On the Back to a length and a half victory, giving Lerner and Nehoc Stables their second Showcase Day stakes after winning the Hudson with Runaway Lute, the horse who gave Javier Castellano his 5,000th career victory.

Can You Diggit, who was 5-1 with Junior Alvarado aboard, rallied to finish second, one length ahead of 10-1 Mr. Buff and David Cohen. Wine Not, who was 11-1 under Manny Franco, finished fourth, just a neck behind Mr. Buff.

Sugar Maple Farm bred Pat On the Back, a son of Congrats out of Accomplished by Awesome Again who sold for $70,000 as a yearling at Saratoga in August, 2015. He is trained by Jeremiah Englehart.

Pat On the Back, who had been principally sprinting earlier in his career, took his game to a whole new level when he finished second by a nose to subsequent Grade 1 stakes winner Diversify in the $200,000 Commentator Stakes on May 28th.

Pat On the Back then won the $90,000 Saginaw Stakes by a length and three-quarters July 13th before finishing second by a neck to Can You Diggit in the $97,000 Evan Shipman Stakes at Saratoga, Aug. 20th. Englehart freshened Pat On the Back, and, outside of the clumsy start, he raced lights out in posting his most significant victory.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

After letting Pat On the Back regain his balance, Davis settled him in third as 7-2 Sea Foam and Joel Rosario set the pace prompted by Mr. Buff through early splits of :24.26, :47.94 and 1:12.03.

Mr. Buff took over the front and Pat On the Back was right behind him going three-wide. Pat On the Back then took the lead, opened a clear advantage and maintained it to the finish line. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“This was a great way to end a fantastic day, also winning the Hudson today with Running Lute,” Lerner said afterwards. “It’s been a great Empire Showcase Day for me and my partners. We’ll definitely enjoy today and we always love to support the New York-bred program.”

Davis said of his winner, “He really likes this track and handles it well.”

No lie there. Pat On the Back is now three-for-eight at Belmont with three seconds and a pair of thirds.

Overall, Pat On the Back is six-for-20 on dirt with four seconds and four thirds. He also has raced once on grass and has total earnings of more than $710,000.

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