(Masen wins G3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park / Photo by Chelsea Durand & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Juddmonte homebred Masen provided trainer Chad Brown with his first career score in the Grade 3, $250,000 Poker on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Brown, a four-time Eclipse Award-winner, saddled two 4-year-old sons of Kingman in the one-mile Widener turf test for older horses, including the 1-5 favorite Masen and 7-2 second choice Public Sector.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost, with Luis Saez up, broke well and led the five-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 24.05 seconds over the firm going as Flavien Prat settled a rank Masen into second position.

Masen was traveling well down the backstretch as the Jose Ortiz-piloted Public Sector angled outside of a ground-saving Sanctuary City and two-wide Penalty into a stalking position through a half-mile in 48.26.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost led the field into the turn as Prat maneuvered Masen to the outside and into the clear, taking command at the stretch call with Public Sector launching an outside rally and Sanctuary City cutting the corner.

Masen, under right-handed encouragement from Prat, stayed on strong to the wire for a one-length win in a final time of 1:34.16. Wolfie’s Dynaghost completed the exacta by a nose over Public Sector, who was a nose better than fourth-place Sanctuary City. Penalty rounded out the order of finish.

The victory marked the fifth stakes win of the meet for Prat.

“He broke well and when I asked him to switch off, it took him a little while,” Prat said. “It was a slow pace, so that didn’t help, but after that he switched off nice for me. He has a great turn of foot, so I wasn’t so worried about the slow pace. It was only a matter of getting him to switch off. After that, I was fine.”

Masen, a three-time winner at Leopardstown for former conditioner Ger Lyons, finished second by a nose to Shirl’s Speight on debut for Brown in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile in April at Keeneland. He followed last out with a five-length romp in the Seek Again on May 22 over good going at Belmont in which the pacesetting Wolfie’s Dynaghost faded to last-of-3.

Brown said the winning effort will propel Masen to the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave on August 13 at Saratoga Race Course, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“He ran back just inside a month, which is a little tight for him, but I wanted to get another race between now and the Fourstardave. It worked out,” Brown said. “[He was] a little headstrong off the slow first quarter, but he did settle nicely after that. Flavien indicated that he was pretty much in control from there and just decided when he wanted to take over.”

Brown said he was a little concerned with Masen being headstrong in the opening strides from the gate.

“I didn’t want to take too much out of him, having to reposition him to the outside of Wolfie’s Dynaghost, who ran a much better race this time and I expected him to. He’s a nice horse,” Brown said. “We anticipated a better fight from him today and he gave it to us. Luckily, Masen was able to find a little bit more.”

Klaravich Stables’ Public Sector enjoyed a tremendous sophomore season, winning the Grade 2 Hall of Fame and Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga, along with the Grade 2 Hill Prince at Belmont. He arrived at the Poker from an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Turf Classic in his seasonal debut on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

“[It was] a good regroup race from him after drawing a line through his race at Churchill over a turf course he didn’t like,” Brown said. “He needs a little more pace to run at. He just missed second by a nose and was coming steadily. I think he prefers a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and an eighth anyway, which we know. We will build off this and figure out where we’re going to go next.”

Wolfie’s Dynaghost, with Saez up for the first time, ran back to his solid form when second in the Grade 3 Appleton in April at Gulfstream Park for trainer Tom Albertrani.

“He broke pretty sharp. He made the lead and he was trying until the end,” Saez said. “I think Saratoga will be a better spot for him. The turn out there is short and the track is fast. I think he’ll like it there.”

Bred in Great Britain by his owner, Masen is out of the Smart Strike mare Continental Drift, whose dam Intercontinental was a multiple Grade 1-winning turf champion for Brown’s late mentor Bobby Frankel. In addition to Intercontinental, Masen’s third dam, Hasili, produced four other Grade/Group 1 winners for Juddmonte.

Masen banked $137,500 in victory while improving his record to 9-5-2-1. He returned $2.60 for a $2 win wager.

Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont Park with a 10-race card featuring the NYSSS Spectacular Bid in Race 4 and the NYSSS Cupecoy’s Joy in Race 9. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.