Following a distant eighth in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes last out, Gold Mark Farm's Vexor wasn't given much chance in Belmont Park's $150,000 Nashua Stakes and was sent off the 18-1 longest shot in the six-juvenile field. However, the chestnut colt rallied off that dismal performance to conquer Saturday's Grade 2 contest by three parts of a length under jockey David Cohen to get his campaign back on a winning track.
Trained by John Kimmel, the Wildcat Heir son pressed pacesetter Trinniberg through early splits of :22 and :45 2/5 on the backstretch. The pair quickly pulled away from the rest of the field in the lane and battled all the way home, with Vexor just getting past his rival strides from the wire to stop the clock in 1:10 3/5 for six furlongs on the good, drying out dirt.
"The game plan was very simple-- break well, and if we're keeping up with the horses in hand, stay where we are, and if we're struggling to keep up, just let him finish strong," Cohen explained. "He broke very nice and was just off the front-runner's hip. I was just trying to keep him relaxed. At any point, he could have gone by the horse. It's a long stretch, so I was just trying to save some horse for the stretch run."
Vexor paid $38.20, $13 and $5.70 to his faithful but few backers while improving his bankroll to $133,000 with the Nashua winner's share. Trinniberg was game in defeat, while Seeker followed in third another 4 1/2 lengths back. Jagati, who delayed the start a bit while the gate crew worked on his bridle, finished fourth. Hannibal Lechter and 7-5 favorite She Digs Me completed the order of finish after Angel's Tune and Clip the Coupons were both withdrawn.
Vexor now boasts a 4-2-1-0 line having made his career bow a runner-up finish at Belmont on June 10. He wasn't seen again for two months, showing up to earn his first victory in an August 10 Saratoga maiden. The chestnut's subpar run in the Hopeful followed, but he'll get a shot at Breeders' Cup glory off this score.
"His maiden race kind of shows it wasn't a fluke," Kimmel said. "He ran a very good race up there (at Saratoga). We had some question marks after he ran so poorly in the Hopeful. It was so bad that we just kind of had to throw the race out. He came back and had two nice works. Today he was on the outside, tracked the speed and was there when it counted.
"It's nice to get back and get a good performance out of him. He's obviously earned his way into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. It was very exciting, especially after the tough week it's been with Fire On Ice getting hurt."
Bred in Florida by Carlos Rafael and Briggs and Cromartie Bloodstock, Vexor sold for $10,000 as an OBS October weanling before bringing $90,000 as an OBS August yearling. He is out of the unraced Yes It's True mare Real Clever Trick.