Justin Phillip emerged victorious from an early three-way scramble for the lead and never looked back on his way to a 3 ¼-length victory over J Js Lucky Train in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens Presented by VisitNassauCounty.com at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Justin Phillip quickly shook clear of Derivative and Travelin Man and led through an opening quarter-mile in 22.23 and a half-mile in 44.45 over the muddy track. Showing no signs of weakening as the field of five 3-year-olds straightened for home, Justin Phillip began pulling clear through the stretch under intermittent urging and hit the wire in 1:23.56 for the seven furlongs.
“He has run very well on an off track before and everything fell into place today,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Justin Phillip for Zayat Stables, LLC. “We thought he was going to lay third and Ramon said he felt great underneath him and that he was just dragging him along.”
J Js Lucky Train was up to edge favored Arch Traveler for third, with Travelin Man and Derivative completing the order of finish. Bold Warrior and Little Drama were scratched.
It was the first stakes victory in five attempts for Justin Phillip, a dark bay son of Trippi whose previous best stakes efforts were third-place finishes in the Grade 2, one-mile Jerome on April 23 and the Grade 3, seven-furlong Bay Shore, both at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Sent off at 4-1, Justin Phillip returned $10.80 for a $2 win bet as he more than doubled his earnings to $261,528 with the winner’s purse of $150,000. Overall, his record stands at 3-1-4 from 10 lifetime starts.
Asmussen said he would speak with owner Ahmed Zayat about the colt’s upcoming schedule but added: “It certainly puts the King’s Bishop [Grade 1, 7f, Saratoga, August 27] on your calendar.”