Eye Witness adds second stakes in Paradise Creek

Saturday, May 20th, 2023

Eye Witness edges Inflation Nation for second stakes victory in Saturday’s Paradise Creek at Belmont Park. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

Eye Witness handled another task thrown in his path Saturday at Belmont Park.

Running on yielding ground for the first time – and in open-company stakes competition for the second straight start – Eye Witness withstood a late challenge from Inflation Nation to win the $150,000 Paradise Creek Stakes going 7 furlongs.

The 3-year-old son of City of Light, the top-priced New York-bred at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale, edged Inflation Nation by a head in 1:25.32 over the ground softened significantly by Saturday’s rains in the New York Metropolitan area.

Eye Witness added the Paradise Creek to his victory last time out in the 6-furlong Animal Kingdom Stakes on synthetic at Turfway Park, which came about three months after he broke his maiden there going 1 mile and around two turns. Jose Ortiz rode Eye Witness, who improved to 3-for-4 with earnings of $205,740 for trainer Wesley Ward and owners Westerberg, Susan Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor.

Eye Witness closed from fifth after the opening half-mile, overtaking early leader Charging, Son of a Birch, Devils Only Friend and Inflation Nation en route to victory.

“I was very confident in my horse and I was just worrying about Dylan [Davis, aboard Inflation Nation] to the inside of me,” Ortiz said of the early stages of the Paradise Creek. “But he was following the right horse which was [Charging]. So, I said ‘I’m just going to go around – I feel like I have enough horse to kind of block them and make them wait longer than they wanted to.’ I did, and my horse responded so well when I put him in the clear.”

Eye Witness took over into the lane and opened up by 1 1/2 lengths in midstretch. Davis and Inflation Nation reduced the deficit inside the final furlong but couldn’t get past the winner. Vacation Dance, another New York-bred who won last year’s Atlantic Beach Stakes at Aqueduct, finished 5 ½ lengths back in third. Hey Eugene, Joey Freshwater, Son of a Birch, Charging and Devils Only Friend completed the field.

“I felt like I probably moved a little sooner than I wanted to, but with the soft ground, sometimes if you stop the momentum, it’s very hard to get it back,” Ortiz said. “I almost paid the price in the end, but I’m just glad we held on. …I’m thankful for the opportunity from Wesley and the ownership.”

Eye Witness sold to Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier during the third session of the 2021 September sale as Hip 723. Bred by Anlyn Farms and foaled at Irish Hill Century Farm in Stillwater, Eye Witness originally sold as a weanling to Brady Bloodstock for $235,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November mixed sale.

A half-brother to New York-bred stakes winner More Mischief and stakes-placed winner Myawaya, Eye Witness is the eighth foal out of the Mr. Greeley mare Gracilia. A half-sister to New York-bred champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old and Grade 2 winner Sharp Humor, Gracilia is also the dam of New York-bred winners Scalpeen, Decorator Jenn and Killala Bay.

Gracilia’s New York-bred daughter of Practical Joke sold for $190,000 at this year’s OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. She is also the dam of a yearling New York-bred filly by Game Winner.

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