In the slop at Belmont Park, Vekoma surged to a 7 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter Handicap to record his first G1 win.
With a field that dwindled down to eight runners after scratchings, Vekoma wasn’t favored in the betting but made light work of the conditions, earning his way to Keeneland in November.
American Anthem lead the field for most of the trip before Vekoma stretched out with 2 1/2 furlongs to travel to win comfortably by 7 1/4-lengths, making the race look more like track work that a G1 title.
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It’s Vekoma’s first G1 win, having previously taken out the G3 Nashua Stakes as a juvenile and the G2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes as a sophomore.
The coveted Runhappy Carter Handicap is the first G1 sprint in the new 2020 North American racing season, and Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano made it look easy aboard the four-year-old.
“The way he handled the track today was amazing,” Castellano said.
“I didn’t have any concern before the race because I rode him in the slop in the G1 Kentucky Derby and he loved it—a mile and a quarter was just too far.
“He cut back in distance, and we got what we were looking for today.”
The George Weaver-trained Vekoma was 12th in the Kentucky Derby at the famous Churchill Downs racecourse in 2019 as a three-year-old, however he returned strongly with a win at Gulfstream Park, winning the Sir Shackleton Stakes earlier this year.
Mind Control entered the race as a short-priced favorite but the dual G1-winner was disappointing, going unplaced for the second time at Belmont Park.
While the stable still remains tight-lipped over its next target between now and the November 7 G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland – it’s likely a tilt at the G1 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont in four weeks could be the route taken.
“I’ve never had a horse with this much talent and determination. He just knows what he is,” Weaver said.
Vekoma has now won five of seven starts and $970,525 in prize money.