Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven went to the lead immediately in Thursday’s $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, held a daylight lead to the final fence on Belmont Park’s backstretch, and fought off late challenges to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
Gil Johnston’s Miguel Grau came on late to snatch second money from Special Skills, who finished third, a head farther back. Aquies finished fourth.
Trained by Doug Fout, Hardrock Eleven scored his second straight victory, after an allowance hurdle score at Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 1, and gave apprentice Brendan Crowley his first U.S. stakes victory.
Sent off at 9-to-2 odds, Hardrock Eleven paid $11 to win after running the Entenmann Memorial’s 2 ¼ miles in 4:14.95 on firm turf.
Crowley, who was in the saddle for the Saratoga victory, wasted no time when the flag dropped at the Entenmann start and quickly moved out to a lead over longshot Dye Fore, with 1.65-to-1 favorite Ice It in third. Miguel Grau and Special Skills were the back markers as Hardrock Eleven set a moderate pace for the first mile.
The positions changed little until the before the last of nine fences, where Special Skills moved up on the inside under Paddy Young. As the field jumped the last and prepared for the five-furlong run to the finish line, Share Out mounted a bid that faded by the stretch.
Hardrock Eleven cut the corner into the stretch, shrugged off Share Out, and established a 1 1/2-length lead by the furlong pole. Crowley put him under pressure in the final sixteenth as Special Skills and Miguel Grau closed in on him. They could not catch the leader, but Miguel Grau, ridden by Willie McCarthy, put a head in front in the final strides.
The $45,000 first-place purse raised Hardrock Eleven’s 2016 earnings above $100,000.