The wait is over for Shanghai Bobby.
His habit of waiting on horses in races apparently is not, though.
After almost six months off, Starlight Racing’s 2012 2-year-old champion colt finally got back to the races on Friday with a neck win in the ungraded Aljamin at Belmont Park.
He did it in typical fashion, taking the lead in the stretch, then allowing Dads Caps to hang around before galloping out in a strong time of 1:15.79 as Slan Abhaile closed for second.
Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg, Starlight co-managing partner with Jack Wolf, was relieved to get their Eclipse Award winner a victory in time to consider a return to the Breeders’ Cup in November.
Shanghai Bobby, co-owned by the Coolmore connections, had not raced since finishing fifth in the Florida Derby on March 30, after which he was diagnosed with a pelvic fracture.
“It seemed like an eternity,” Lucarelli said.
For the first time in his eight-race career, which includes an undefeated five-race 2-year-old season, Shanghai Bobby had someone other than Rosie Napravnik on his back.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez rode in the 6 1⁄2-furlong Aljamin, and despite film review and warnings from trainer Todd Pletcher, Velazquez still had a difficult puzzle to solve against four rivals because of Shanghai Bobby’s propensity to wait on horses after getting the lead.
Shanghai Bobby stalked Dads Cap in a tight pack and swung three-wide coming off the turn to grind his way to the lead by the sixteenth pole.
He still had some work to do, though, and Slan Abhaile was able to get close, but never really threatened to go by Shanghai Bobby.
“I didn’t want to make a premature move and get to the lead too quickly; then, I waited too long and it took him a long time to get going,” Velazquez told the New York Racing Association. “Finally, when he got to the lead, he started waiting again. His gallop out was really good.
“He’s a tough horse to read.”
“He was trying to time it and not get there too soon, and not cut it too close, either,” Pletcher told NYRA.
“You’ve got to sweat it out every time with him, except in the Champagne,” Lucarelli said.
Shanghai Bobby’s 2-year-old campaign included wins in the Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, in which he held off He’s Had Enough by a head.
He was pointed toward the Kentucky Derby preps despite speculation that he was better suited for shorter distances, but Starlight and Pletcher never got a chance to find out, after he finished second to Itsmyluckyday in the Holy Bull and fifth to eventual Derby winner Orb in the Florida Derby.
The injury wasn’ serious, but it took him out of consideration for the Triple Crown races and the summer at Saratoga, where the seven-furlong King’s Bishop would have been a good spot.
Better late than never for the Breeders’ Cup, though.
“He ran really well off the layoff,” Pletcher said. “I thought he ran well enough today to put us in the mix for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint or the Dirt Mile, but we’ll see how he bounces out of it.
“You’re always concerned when you haven’t run a horse in months, champion 2-year-old, and all of that. We felt like we had him ready enough, and he showed up and ran his race.”
“He was laid back until they put the saddle on him, then it was all they could do get the blinkers on, because it dawned on him that, ‘Hey, I finally get to get back on the track,’ ” Lucarelli said. “He got right up on his toes and knew what he was going out there to do.”
Shanghai Bobby had been breezing at Saratoga all summer, and will remain at Belmont to train up to the Breeders’ Cup.
The biggest factor in the choice between the Sprint and Dirt Mile will be how the fields for each shape up, Lucarelli said.
“He’s probably a better miler if he’s on his game, but either would fit him,” Lucarelli said. “He has tactical speed, or he could go to the lead if you let him.
“It’s just definitely exciting to have him back, because we know he’s talented.”
Plan B for Shanghai Bobby, if he misses the Breeders’ Cup for some reason, would be to run in a stakes at Belmont the first weekend in November, then run in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 30.
For the second year in a row, the Grade II $1 million Pennsylvania Derby offers an interesting rematch of Travers Stakes foes today.
Last year, dead-heat Travers winners Alpha and Golden Ticket raced at Parx, only to be upset by 19-1 Handsome Mike.
This time, the intrigue surrounds the rematch between Will Take Charge and Moreno, who lost the Travers by a nose.
A week after the Travers, Moreno’s trainer, Eric Guillot, and owner Mike Moreno lodged a complaint against Will Take Charge’s jockey, Luis Saez, for what they believe to be the use of an electronic device, known as a “battery” or “machine” to stimulate Will Take Charge in the stretch.
The investigation by the New York State Gamining Commission, assisted by the state police, is ongoing.
Will Take Charge is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Pennsylvania Derby, followed by Moreno at 5-2 in a field that also includes the coupled Godolphin entry of Transparent and Romansh.
MORE WEEKEND STAKES
Dance to Bristol is 2-1 in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont attempting to win her eighth straight, after winning the Honorable Miss and Ballerina at Saratoga.
She’s breaking from the outside in a field of nine.
Ben’s Cat is cross-entered in the Laurel Dash and DeFrancis Dash at Laurel, but trainer King Leatherbury said the popular sprinter would opt for the Laurel Dash.
Also on the Pennsylvania Derby card, Grade I Mother Goose winner Close Hatches is 5-2 in the Cotillion.
Alabama winner Princess of Sylmar, owned by Schenectady native Ed Stanco, had been considered for the Cotillion, but is pointing toward the Beldame and a meeting with Royal Delta next Saturday at Belmont.
There are no plans to run Princess of Sylmar in the Breeders’ Cup.
JC GOLD CUP UPDATE
Horses running in next Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont will be subject to extra security procedures similar to what was in place for the Travers and Belmont Stakes.
They will have to be on the grounds by Wednesday and will be required to submit to 24-hour surveillance and out-of-competition blood testing for banned substances.
The field for the Jockey Club Gold Cup is expected to include Orb, Palace Malice, Alpha and Flat Out, with Cross Traffic, Last Gunfighter, Liaison and Ron the Greek possible.
Trainer Ian Wilkes said this week that 2012 Whitney and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned would run in the Homecoming at Churchill Downs instead of the JCGC, as originally planned.
KEENELAND YEARLING SALE
The Keeneland September Yearling Sale, which concludes today, produced a whopping 13 purchases for at least $1 million.
The sale topper was a bay filly by Indian Charlie bought by Mandy Pope for $2.2 million on Wednesday.
The daughter out of three-time Grade I winner Take Charge Lady is a half-sister to Will Take Charge and 2012 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy.
Starlight bought 10 yearlings to bring its 2013 class to a total of 17, for which they spent about $4 million.
Five fillies from the group, including one bought at Saratoga and four bought at Keeneland this week, will be allocated to the newly formed StarLadies partnership.
“We got some nice breeding, a Street Sense and an Eskendereya, a couple of Harlan’s Holidays, so we’ll see how they turn out,” Lucarelli said.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will re-open to the public on Tuesday with regular fall hours of 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily and noon-4 on Sunday.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul, making his first start since finishing eighth in the Travers, was ninth in an allowance at Kentucky Downs on Wednesday. ...
Great Minds, owned by New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, will debut in the sixth at Belmont today.