Amundson sizzles off the bench in Hollie Hughes

Monday, February 17th, 2020

NYRA/Susie Raisher

By Sarah Mace

Amundson, a homebred for Barry Schwartz’ Stonewall Farm, came off an 11-week freshening full of run on President’s Day to win the $100,000 Hollie Hughes Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for New York-breds 4-years-old and up at Aqueduct Racetrack. Let go at 15-1 odds, the 4-year-old Curlin gelding set aggressive splits while leading the eight-horse field, readily carrying his head of steam to the wire to get the victory by two lengths.

The only 4-year-old in a field of veterans, Amundson was making only his eighth career start in the Hollie Hughes. Unveiled in January 2019 and unplaced in that first start, he did not reemerge again until mid-June, when, as a new gelding, he trounced a maiden special weight field at Delaware Park by more than ten lengths for trainer Horacio DePaz.

Fourth and third, respectively, in a pair of New York-bred allowance sprints at Saratoga, Amundson then put together back-to-back state-bred wins at Belmont in September and October. In the latter victory, another open-length blowout, Amundson improved on his best Beyer by 15 points earning a 94. He closed out his sophomore campaign unplaced in his stakes debut when he set the pace then tired in the City of Light Stakes at Laurel Park.

Partnered with Jorge Vargas Jr. for the first time for his comebacker, Amundson had plenty of company as he strove for the lead after the bell, but he out-hustled the rest. Along the backstretch he raced three-wide while gradually widening his advantage from one-half to 1 1/2 lengths, while clocking aggressive splits of 22.20 and 45.44.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Angling in to save ground through the turn, Amundson was shaken up at the head of the stretch to keep to his task, but no serious threats emerged.

My Boy Tate, the 2-1 favorite, came with a late charge to check in second, but by that point Amundson had crossed the wire a two-length winner in a final time of 1:10.87. Morning Breez, also a longshot at 17-1, chased with intent throughout and finished third. Completing the order of finish were Binkster, Cerretalto, Eye Luv Lulu, Arthurs’s Hope and P J Advantage. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“He was brave up front,” Vargas said. “It worked out. I was going a little fast, but nobody was putting any pressure on me and I took advantage of it. He relaxed really well and really got back to me when it was time to go. Every time I asked him, he gave me something.”

Horacio DePaz, who is based in Maryland but keeps a small string of state-breds in New York, said, “There were just veteran horses he was running against today. Jason [Servis’] horse [Eye Luv Lulu] had 55 starts and you’ve got to respect these seasoned horses. He’s talented and today he showed that he’s capable of competing with them. Hopefully, he continues to improve off that.”

The conditioner added, “I thought he was going to labor there at the end and they were going to catch him. He hadn’t run in a few months, so I was just a little concerned fitness-wise. It looked like everybody was struggling behind him down the stretch. I was just hoping that the wire was going to get there in time.”

Amundson is the first foal and lone starter out of Bridgehampton who was purchased by Barry Schwartz for $100,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. A daughter of Bernardini, Bridgehampton went on to win a stakes race at Parx and finish second in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont.

Bridgehampton has also produced unraced sophomore Winner’s Laugh (Broken Vow), a juvenile colt by Munnings and a yearling filly by Sky Mesa.

Amundson’s first stakes victory improves his record to four wins in eight starts and a third with $167,808 in earnings.

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