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Connect by a head over Divining Rod in Big A’s Cigar Mile

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NEW YORK (AP) Connect beat Divining Rod by a head at the end of a stretch duel Saturday in the $500,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

A late developing 3-year-old facing older horses for the first time in a stakes race, Connect won for the fifth time in six starts this season. Ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Chad Brown, the Pennsylvania Derby winner was part of a four-horse battle turning for home. It turned into a two-horse contest as Connect and Divining Rod pulled away from the pack in the final furlong.

Divining Rod held the slightest advantage until Connect pushed on in the final strides.

“It was an exciting race,” Brown said. “This is such a nice horse. Javier really rode him good. He had to move a little earlier than he wanted and he got a bit of a wide trip, but he knew how to time it just right.”

It was the first race for Connect since the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 24. Brown opted to give the colt a break after that race.

“There is always a risk doing that,” Brown said. “He could be a little short, but he had just enough today and got it done at a mile.”

Arnaud Delacour, Divining Rod’s trainer, took the tough-luck defeat in stride.

“I thought it was a great stretch run from both horses,” he said. “I think Connect is a great horse, so I’m thrilled.”

Connect paid $5, $3.30 and $2.80 as the 3-2 favorite.

Divining Rod returned $5.10 and $4.90 and Realm paid $7 to show.

The time was 1:35.34 in the final Grade 1 stakes of the year in New York

Connect earned $300,000 for the win, lifting his career earnings to $1.25 million for owner Paul Pompa Jr.

On the undercard, Mo Town stepped up from his maiden win to take $300,000 Remsen Stakes for 2-year-olds.

With the victory, he also moved into next year’s Triple Crown picture.

The son of Uncle Mo is 2 for 3 for trainer Tony Dutrow. The latest was a very professional effort by an inexperienced colt.

After Takaful, the 4-5 favorite, opened a big lead down the backstretch, jockey John Velazquez and Mo Town made a decisive move from fourth into second, narrowing the gap right behind the leader.

Mo Town took over from Takaful in the final eighth of a mile and pulled clear to a 2 1/2 length score over No Dozing. Takaful was third.

Mo Town paid $10.40 to win.

– Paco Lopez rode a pair of upset stakes winners.

He rallied Verve’s Tale rallied past 3-5 favorite Lewis Bay for a 20-1 upset in the $250,000 Comely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

After losing her first seven races, Verve’s Tale has now won two straight. She prevailed by a neck, paying $43.60 to win for trainer Barclay Tagg.

Lopez reversed tactics in the $300,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, posting a front-running victory aboard 5-1 shot Miss Sky Warrior.

She held off Jamyson `n Ginger, the 9-5 choice, by a half-length. It was her third straight win for trainer Kelly Breen.

Miss Sky Warrior paid $13.20 to win.

Triple Crown winner Justify under observation at Del Mar

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DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Triple Crown winner Justify has re-located to Del Mar where trainer Bob Baffert is keeping him under observation after swelling in his left front ankle emerged two weeks ago.

Baffert says Justify will probably just walk around the stable area for the next two weeks at the track north of San Diego. The probable scenario for the colt is a return to racing sometime in the fall with the ultimate goal being the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November.

“Right now, we’re just looking to get him 100 percent,” Baffert said Monday. “We’re in a holding pattern. I’d love to run him again because he’s so much fun and exciting to watch. We should know more in a couple of weeks.”

Justify has won all six starts in his brief career that began this year. He has won four straight Grade 1 races, including a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown champion.

The colt hasn’t had a workout since the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Funtastic wins Monmouth’s United Nations Stakes in 23-1 upset

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Funtastic led all the way in a 23-1 upset Saturday in the $300,000 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Chad Brown, the Eclipse Award winner the last two years as the nation’s leading trainer, got his third victory in the New Jersey’s biggest turf race. He won with Big Blue Kitten in 2013 and 2015.

The U.N. and the $1 million Haskell on July 29 are the two Grade 1 stakes at Monmouth.

Brown saddled four of the nine runners in the U.N. and ran 1-2 as Money Multiplier rallied to finish a half length behind Funtastic and jockey Antonio Gallardo.

The other two Brown horses were Silverwave (fifth) and Kurilov (eighth).

The time was 2:12.36 for 1 3/8 miles over the firm course.

Funtastic paid $48, $15.80 and $8.60. Money Multiplier, the 2-1 favorite, returned $4 and $2.80.

Bigger Picture, last year’s U.N. winner, was third, paying $5.80 to show.