Despite the Odds (by Speightstown) became a graded stakes winner June 5 at Belmont Park, as he put away Affirmatif and romped to a 7 1/2-length victory in the $109,000 Hill Prince (gr. IIIT), which was taken off the turf course because of heavy rain in New York.
Once the one-mile Hill Prince was moved to the main track, it gave the Despite the Odds a big edge. The son of Speightstown had made all three of his previous starts on dirt, while Affirmatif had won two of his three starts on the grass. A field of only six 3-year-olds went to the starting gate, as there were four scratches.
Under the handling of Jeremy Rose, Despite the Odds broke sharply from post 2 and sat right off the pace set by Affirmatif, who went the first quarter-mile in :23.47. The gray/roan colt took over approaching the half-mile pole and shook free from his rival while opening up a three-length lead at the eighth pole. He cruised home for the comfortable win. Conservative, the 7-5 favorite, never factored and was well back in fourth.
The final time on the sloppy, sealed track was 1:35.68. Affirmatif, who won the Woodlawn Stakes May 16 at Pimlico last out, was 6 1/4 lengths clear of third-place Dubinsky.
Despite the Odds, trained by Michael Trombetta, entered the Hill Prince off an eighth-place finish in his graded stakes debut, the May 16 Hirsch Jacobs (gr. III) at Pimlico on Preakness Day. He was far back from the outset of the race, unlike his first two starts when kept close to the pace. Despite the Odds broke his maiden by 10 3/4 lengths March 4 at Laurel and came back to win in optional claiming company a month later over the same strip.
“I always thought he was a distance horse,” Rose said “He wasn’t himself in his last race and I thought he showed his credentials today. Coming off the turn I had a ton of horse, if they were going to run him down it would have to be a horse with a lot of kick.
"Even though he never ran in the slop before, I was happy with the way he was getting over it, even in the post parade. I couldn’t believe we went that fast. It was all about where he was comfortable today – it never seemed like he wanted to be on the lead any more than I did, and I had plenty of horse to finish up with.”
Owned by Larry Johnson, Michael Ryan, and Jerry Dilger and bred in Kentucky by Walton Breeders, Despite the Odds is out of the Cozzene mare Lady Aloma. He was a $300,000 purchase at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale. He has now earned $98,460.
The winner paid $17.20, $6.80 and $4.40. The exacta (2-9) returned $72.50 and the trifecta (2-9-10) was a generous $316.