Mind Control had not seen the inside of a winner’s circle since March 2020 when he won the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York; the 5-year-old horse had gotten close in his last eight starts, finishing second to Mischevious Alex in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct back in April. Sunday; Mind Control dueled with favorite Firenze Fire throughout the seven furlongs of the Grade 2 John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont Park.

From the break, it was all Firenze Fire and Mind Control; with American Power and Top Speed a length behind them. The two leaders battled through the first quarter in :23.05 and then the half-mile in :46.03, with Three Technique and Top Speed still within a length of the leaders until the stretch.

They came out of the turn, Firenze Fire and Mind Control pulled away from the rest of the field; two lengths in front of the other four, but Firenze Fire on the rail could not shake Mind Control; who battled back for a head advantage. At the wire, the difference between a third straight victory for Firenze Fire and a long overdue trip to the winner’s circle for Mind Control was a head. Three Technique, Top Seed, Wicked Trick; and American Power rounded out the field. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:21.94.

Mind Control Background

The Grade 2 John A. Nerud Stakes is a Win and You’re In event for the 2021 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 6. Winners received a guaranteed spot in the starting gate with all fees paid for the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race.

Winning rider John Velazquez knew that Mind Control could get the win today.  “I told Todd that if he broke well, I was going to use him to get into a good position. I knew Irad [Ortiz, Jr. aboard Firenze Fire] had to be pushed coming out of there, and if someone else wanted to go crazy then I would sit off of them. I knew there was enough speed, so I used him well enough to put his head in front and then Irad come after me. It was a two-horse race. That’s the way it turned out and my horse was better than the other one today.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher knew that the break was key to winning the Nerud. “The first quarter was reasonable. We weren’t necessarily intent on getting the lead but we did want to make sure we got away cleanly. You can’t let a horse like Firenze Fire get away with an easy lead, so we were happy to see him [Mind Control] break alertly. He ran a great race.”

The G2 Nerud is his eighth victory in 21 starts for career earnings of $1,259,229.

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