Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu turned back spirited late challenges from All for Us and Jamarjo to win Monmouth Park’s featured steeplechase race, a $35,000 Ratings Handicap, by a head on Friday.
Ridden by Jack Doyle, 5.40-to-1 Andi’amu was always in a contending position in the 2 1/4-mile hurdle and moved to the fore before the final fence. The French-bred opened 1 1/2 lengths inside the sixteenth pole, but Irv Naylor’s Jamarjo, ridden by Paddy Young, cut into advantage.
Leslie Young, trainer of both Andi’amu and Jamarjo, looked to have the exacta in hand when Duodecim Stable’s All for Us and jockey Connor Hankin sliced between them to take the second spot, a nose in front of Jamarjo.
Finishing fourth was S. Bruce Smart Jr.’s Orchestra Leader finished fourth, 9 3/4 lengths farther back, after setting the lead for much of the race under Keri Brion. Andi’amu ran the Ratings Handicap’s distance in 4:26.95 on firm turf.
Doyle kept Andi’amu just off Orchestra Leader’s pace for the race’s first two miles. “He was pretty relaxed the entire way,” Doyle said. “He is very good at keeping one cruising speed the entire race. He covered the ground easily. We had a horse in front of us the whole time, so I wanted to keep him to the outside so we didn’t get trapped inside. It was a perfect trip.”
Finishing worse than second only once since his American debut last summer (fifth in the Temple Gwathmey [Gr. 2] on April 23), Andi’amu had finished second in his previous start, a $35,000 Ratings Handicap at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 14.
Gary Barber’s 2-to-1 favorite African Oil, showing some of his occasionally difficult temperament, bucked at the start and refused.
In the afternoon’s other steeplechase race, a $30,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle, Virginia Lazenby’s Help from Heaven needed little help as he moved into a threatening position on Monmouth’s final turn, moved to the lead before the last fence, and drew clear to a 6 1/2-length victory.
Amy Taylor Rowe’s Meteroid, on the lead to the next-to-last fence, finished second under Paddy Young, and Move-Up Stables’ Anaylst finished third in a full field of 10.
Sent off as the 1.30-to-1 favorite, Help from Heaven was ridden by Kieran Norris and ran the 2 1/4 miles in 4:29.99.
Trainer Doug Fout said he expected a solid effort from the four-year-old Divine Park gelding, who was taken down by a fallen horse while in a contending position in his prior start, a $40,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle at Iroquois.