Fifty Five successfully defends title in John Hettinger Stakes

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

NYRA/Elsa Lorieul

By Sarah Mace

It can be risky to take consistency for granted, but Peter M. Brant’s Fifty Five appears to be the exception that proves the rule. Successfully unleashing her patented winning move in late stretch, the 5-year-old daughter of Get Stormy captured her second edition of the $125,000 John Hettinger Stakes at Belmont Park Sunday as the 1-2 favorite.

A winner of 10 races in 21 starts, with only two off-the-board finishes in her career, this dream horse has now earned $917,788. Her stakes wins total seven, led by the Grade 3 Florida Oaks.

Despite Fifty Five’s apparent dominance in the New York-bred female turf division, there was no shortage of would-be spoilers signed on for this year’s Hettinger, which is run at a nine furlongs on the inner turf. The size of the field field yielded one potential Achilles heel for Chad Brown-trainee when she drew the outside post of nine. Given the short run into the clubhouse turn, regular rider Javier Castellano would have his work cut out to get position without losing too much ground early. Castellano was up to the challenge.

Able to make her way over into the three-path by the first turn, Fifty Five set up shop in fifth just three lengths off the pace. Wish Upon, on the lead, posted very moderate early splits of 25.12 and 49.61.

Travelling comfortably, along the backstretch, Fifty Five began to move while rounding the far turn, got set down for the drive three wide and began picking off her foes.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Striking the front past the furlong marker, she was called upon to dig in as War Canoe, outrunning her 9-1 odds, made a menacing rally into second. Fifty Five responded and held, securing the win by three-quarters of length. Further back by 2 3/4 lengths 9-1 Wegetsdamunnys got third. After a mile in 1:36.45, the final time was 1:47.67.

Castellano was all admiration for his mount. “She’s a special horse,” the pilot said. “She’s very consistent and I like the way that she did it today. You can see the pace was slow, but she was close to it and in a good position. Usually, she isn’t that close but with the way the pace was, she was in a good comfortable rhythm and in a good spot in the race. She got the job done. She just knows how to win. I thought I had the best horse in the race and I’m glad to get it done.”

Chad Brown’s assistant Whit Beckman said “She appreciates this turf course a lot. The wider turns give her a little more room to negotiate, although she set herself a little closer today going with the trend. Javier [Castellano] knows her very well. I didn’t have to tell him much as he has ridden her in many of her starts.”

Bred by John and Sandy Crowe’s Empire Equines and foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Fifty Five is one of two winners out of Empire’s homebred stakes-placed mare Soave by Brahms. Fifty Five RNA’d for $24,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sales only to emerge as Get Stormy’s first stakes winner when she won the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. Brant purchased the filly privately from Empire Equines after the Grade 3 Florida Oaks, which she won for trainer Tom Bush. She moved to Brown’s barn after changing hands.


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