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Munnings overpowers Elders in Tom Fool

ELMONT, N.Y. – Munnings took command at the top of the stretch after a rail-skimming move under jockey John Velazquez and ran off to an impressive victory over three rivals Sunday afternoon in the 35th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park.

The three-year-old son of 2004 champion sprinter Speightstown, only the fourth sophomore to win the race, sat behind early fractions of 22.10 and 44.47 set by Riley Tucker, then darted through an opening on the inside to grab the lead and rolled home 2¼ lengths clear of the pacesetter.

His winning time was 1:21.08 as he joined Plugged Nickle (1980), Groovy (1986) and Trippi (2000) as winners of the seven-furlong handicap.

“I was a bit uneasy running against older horses this early in the year, but I just felt like it was the right race for him,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who also trained Trippi. “The one thing I felt was that sometimes when you win races like this, it carries a lot of weight toward the end of the year for championship honors.”

Sent off as the odds-on favorite after the scratch of Fabulous Strike, Munnings returned $3.30 for a $2 win bet to his backers in the crowd of 6,767 and earned $120,000 for his owners, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith.

“When I asked my horse, he responded right away,” said Velazquez of Munnings, a $1.7 million purchase who is now 3-2-1 from seven lifetime starts, including the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in his previous start. “He’s grown this year – he’s breaking better and he has more confidence in himself.”

Pletcher said the next start for Munnings would likely be the Grade 1, $300,000 NetJets King’s Bishop at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, Aug. 29.

“We’ll most likely stick to that plan, but I don’t know that he needs seven weeks or whatever it is. He’s doing so good right now I wish the King’s Bishop was the first week.”

After pressing the pace, Driven by Success was third, 3¼ lengths behind Riley Tucker, while The Last Wave trailed.

 

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