ELMONT, N.Y. -- Festin launched a spectacular rally turning into the stretch to win the $500,000 Nassau County Handicap at Belmont Park yesterday.
The Argentine-bred 5-year-old came from last place to win by seven lengths over 19-1 shot Gervazy, with favored Farma Way another two lengths behind in third.
"I didn't take him off [the pace], he just dropped back himself," said winning jockey Eddie Delahoussaye.
Farma Way and Jolie's Halo engaged in such a heated early duel -- they opened 10 lengths on their eight rivals after setting fractions of 22 2/5 seconds, :44 3/5 and 1:08 4/5 -- that by race's end, Jolie's Halo was eased.
Meanwhile, Festin lagged some 20 lengths back, then began to gain halfway through the one-turn, 1 1/8 -mile race.
"I saw the first half and those fractions and I said, 'We're home free,' " said Ron McAnally, trainer of Festin. The horse is owned by the Haras Sonoita stable of Burt and Nancy Kinerk of Tucson, Ariz.; they bought him from Argentine connections last year.
Festin paid $13.60 to win as third choice. He finished in 1:46 3/5, just one-fifth off the stakes record.
Victory in the Nassau County, fifth of 10 events in the American Championship Racing Series, gives Festin a 30-23 lead over Farma Way atop the series' point standings. Festin won the Oaklawn Handicap in April, then finished fourth behind Farma Way in the Pimlico Special on May 11.
NOTES: Festin and Farma Way raced on Lasix in the Pimlico Special but not yesterday, as per New York rules. Jolie's Halo, who has never received Lasix, bled yesterday. . . . Fly So Free ($3) rallied from last place to win the $123,400 Riva Ridge Stakes on the Belmont undercard by two lengths. The 2-year-old champion of 1990 ran the seven furlongs in 1:23 with Jerry Baily riding. The colt will be pointed to the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes at Saratoga.