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Porte Bonheur takes Flight in First Flight Handicap

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Her name translates into “Lucky Charm,” and Sunday afternoon at Belmont Park, Porte Bonheur made her own luck as she ran down Spritely in the final strides to take the 32nd running of the Grade 2, $150,000 First Flight Handicap for fillies and mares.

Ridden by Belmont Park’s top jockey, Ramon Dominguez, the four-year-old daughter of Hennessy enjoyed a ground-saving trip through opening fractions of 22.74 and 45.13 set by Carolyn’s Cat and Sunday Geisha, then swung wide straightening for home to wear down a game Spritely and win by a nose.

Her time for the seven furlongs on the fast main track was 1:22.45. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite in her second start of the year, having finished second to Carolyn’s Cat in the Grade 2 Vagrancy on May 24, Porte Bonheur returned $6 for a $2 win bet.

“She has come a long way since last year,” said Dominguez. “Now, she is a lot more focused. She’s always been very professional in her races, but she was her own worst enemy as she’d get worked up beforehand. (Trainer) David (Duggan) and his barn have done an outstanding job with her.”

The victory was the third on the card for Dominguez, who is currently enjoying a more than 20-win advantage over his nearest competitor, Rajiv Maragh, for Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet.

With a record of 6-1-2 from 10 starts – her only off the board performance came in her two-year-old debut at Saratoga, when she finished eighth – Porte Bonheur earned $90,000 and boosted her earnings to $413,012. More importantly, she likely earned herself a spot in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 29.

“This was a legitimate test for her, to see if she could get the seven furlongs,” said Duggan, who trains Porte Bonheur for Joanna Murphy-Leopoldsberger. “If she didn’t get the seven-eighths, we’d have to regroup. We’ll see how she comes out of the race. The Ballerina has been a main goal for the year, for her to be a Group 1 filly, but she had to get there in the right progression.”

A half-length behind Spritely was Turn Away, who in turn was followed by Iron Butterfly, Sunday Geisha, and Carolyn’s Cat.


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