Justin Phillip breaks through in Vanderbilt
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- In his sixth attempt, Justin Phillip finally won the first Grade I of his career, closing into a speed duel between Delaunay and Gentleman's Bet to win the A.G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga Race Course today.
The 5-year-old son of First Samurai owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen also passed $1 million in earnings with the win, by two lengths over Bahamian Squall.
In 28 career starts, he had been 0-for-5 in Grade I races, including a neck loss to Poseidon's Warrior in last year's Vanderbilt.
"I can't say enough about the how much respect I have for Justin Phillip as a racehorse," Asmussen said. "He hasn't held any of the mistakes we've made with him against us. You know, we were trying to win the Derby with him when he was 3. He's got a lot of talent. You want to get that done, and for him to travel as much as he has, run as fast as he has consistently and probably his best race up today is very rewarding."
Among Justin Phillip's exploits was a misadventure at Saratoga as a 2-year-old in 2011, when he dumped Garrett Gomez during the post parade for a maiden race and proceeded to run around the track in the wrong direction. He was corralled in the backstretch barn area after jumping over the outside rail.
He came back 12 days later to finish second before breaking his maiden at Belmont.
Justin Phillip was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint in November.