By: David Grening
ELMONT, N.Y. – Touchofstarquality was not quite ready for his close-up Monday at Belmont Park as Comfort ran by him in the final sixteenth of a mile to win the $100,000 State Dinner Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths.
Comfort, with John Velazquez aboard, wins the State Dinner Stakes on Monday.
Touchofstarquality, the 6-5 favorite coming off a smart-looking allowance win on May 21, set the pace Monday but had to settle for second, three lengths ahead of J S Bach. Elnaawi and Dontbetwithbruno completed the order of finish.
Comfort, a 4-year-old son of Indian Charlie, won for the second time in as many starts this year and it was his third consecutive win dating back to last November. He is 3 for 4 since being purchased by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher in the winter of 2015.
Comfort had a little help from his uncoupled stablemate J S Bach, who may have prompted Touchofstarquality to go a bit quicker than he would have liked early in the 1 1/16-mile race. Touchofstarquality ran an opening half-mile in 46.41 seconds and six furlongs in 1:09.89.
John Velazquez had Comfort in fourth, three lengths off the early pace and just outside of Dontbetwithbruno. Velazquez moved Comfort into third leaving the half-mile pole and second at the five-sixteenths. Touchofstarquality, under Jose Ortiz, appeared to spurt away for a stride or two in upper stretch, but Comfort kept on coming and took the lead just outside the sixteenth pole.
Comfort, a 4-year-old son of Indian Charlie, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.76 and returned $6.40 as the second choice.
“He’s kind of one-paced and the other ones are a little faster than us,” Velazquez said. “At the same time I didn’t want to lose contact with the two horses in front.”
Velazquez said he was glad to see J S Bach prompting Touchofstarquality, “because that horse, when he gets to the lead he’s really tough.”
Ortiz offered no excuse for Touchofstarquality, simply saying, “I think he just got beat.”