Owner Ron Lombardi beat trainer Jason Servis to the winner’s circle after Firenze Fire won Saturday’s Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and made his way toward the Belmont Park main track. However, when Servis arrived, Lombardi turned around and made a bee line for his longtime partner. They threw their arms around each other and embraced, trying to take in the moment they each registered their first Grade 1 win.

“It’s terrific. We’ve had a heck of a year. Saratoga, two stakes,” said Servis, who posted 11 victories at Saratoga, including the Grade 3 Sanford with Firenze Fire. “It really hasn’t hit me yet. When I’m driving home it will probably.”

“I’ve been with Jason since I started eight or nine years ago,” Lombardi said. “Nobody better off the claim. He’s one of the top trainers. Not only that, he’s a good guy. You know what you have with Jason and it’s been a great partnership. I’m a little bit more aggressive and we balance each other out. That’s what it’s about.”

The last of a dozen 2-year-olds into the gate for the 1-mile Champagne, Firenze Fire broke on top, but soon jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. looked to his left and saw a host of leavers. Luis Saez sent Funny Cide winner Aveenu Malcainu. Longshot Blame It On Honey showed speed. Enticed, Honorable Treasure and Hazit all vied for position a half-length from the top, too. Ortiz eased Firenze Fire back and let his mount settle 8 1/2 lengths off the pace.

Aveenu Malcainu’s nose tripped the quarter in :22.90. Approaching the turn, he cleared Enticed and crossed over to the inside. Honorable Treasure chased in the two path while Hazit pressed three wide through a :45.90 half. Meanwhile, Ortiz kept Firenze Fire 9 1/2 lengths off the speed and in the clear.

At the midway point of the turn, Ortiz guided Firenze Fire around weakening rivals Blame It On Honey and Stronger. Firenze Fire streaked up the inside of Master Manipulator before Ortiz tugged on the right rein and guided his mount six paths off the rail at the top of the stretch.

Past 6 furlongs in 1:10.37, Ortiz slapped Firenze Fire on the shoulder and the juvenile advanced within 2 lengths of Aveenu Malcainu. Good Magic beat Firenze Fire to the top and struck the front at the furlong pole. Ortiz went to a left-handed stick and urged his mount past nearing the sixteenth pole. Coasting under the wire, Firenze Fire beat Good Magic by a half-length. Enticed finished third.

Firenze Fire completed the mile in 1:35.91 and returned $24.

“It’s my first Grade 1. I’ve run in Grade 1s, this is my first Grade 1 win,” Lombardi said. “We’re there. I’ve been in the Breeders’ Cup twice, had a second with Tightend Touchdown and it just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Although Firenze Fire impressed in the $500,000 Champagne, his connections nearly opted for a softer spot after the son of Poseidon’s Warrior finished a disappointing fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful Closing Day at Saratoga on a good track. Lombardi convinced Servis to take one more chance against top company before dropping down and shortening up.

“We talk and I’m a little bit more aggressive,” Lombardi said. “We were looking at the Futurity next week possibly and I just felt he didn’t run his race in the Hopeful. The track was a little thick and everything and he didn’t do what I thought he could do. I said, ‘let’s give it another shot before we go short. Let’s try one more,’ and here we are. It’s awesome. Irad did a great job. It’s a great team.”

Servis also praised the team effort behind Firenze Fire, specifically his assistant trainer Henry Argueta, who worked with the seemingly lackluster 2-year-old before his debut.

“You know what, he’s been very laid back, doesn’t show you a lot,” Servis said. “I’ve got to give kudos to my No. 1 assistant in New York, Henry Argueta. He’s been with me 17 years and he did a great job with the horse.”

Despite his quiet nature in the mornings, Firenze Fire won his debut by 3 1/2 lengths in a maiden special at Monmouth Park June 18 before repeating in the Sanford the opening Saturday at Saratoga.

“When he won first time, I was kind of surprised at Monmouth because he really didn’t show much. Then he won at Saratoga, and I was like, ‘this horse is alright,’ ” Servis said.

Firenze Fire is out of My Every Wish, a winless daughter of Langfuhr Lombardi claimed for $16,000 at Aqueduct April 18, 2012. Lombardi never raced her and bred her against advice he received.  

“I never got to race the mare. I claimed her and everyone said don’t (breed her),” Lombardi recalled. “I always go against the odds, I’m a risk-taker and it paid off.”

Firenze Fire earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his Champagne victory. Although Servis has never raced at Del Mar, he and Lombardi are excited at the prospect of heading to the West Coast this fall.

“I’ve got two boys that surf like crazy,” Servis joked. “They’re already probably getting reservations.”

“It’s a dream come true. It doesn’t get any better than this,” Lombardi said. “You always want to get to the Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Derby is the ultimate goal and we’re right there. Words can’t describe it. It’s unbelievable.”

 

Disco Partner scores fourth stakes of 2017

Disco Partner added the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational to his growing list of stakes victories at Belmont Park. Undefeated on the Elmont turf since joining Christophe Clement’s barn this year, the 5-year-old son of Disco Rico captured the Elusive Quality Stakes, Grade 3 Jaipur and Forbidden Apple downstate this spring before finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga in his most recent start Aug. 12.

“Basically, he’s 4-for-4this year here at Belmont. He’s a top-class horse,” Clement said. “Yet again, great credit to Mr. and Mrs. Generazio for their breeding program. We’re very happy.”

Patricia Generazio owns Disco Partner, a third-generation homebred out of four-time winner Lulu’s Number. Patricia and Frank Generazio also own multiple graded stakes winning turf sprinter Pure Sensation, who won the Grade 3 Turf Monster Stakes at Parx in his last start Sept. 4.

“I’m very lucky, I have two top-class sprinters,” Clement said. “We won the race at Parx with Pure Sensation a month ago, (Disco Partner) wins this race, now they can make a decision, which one goes to the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a great problem to have. It’s a great credit to breeding program. They’re wonderful people and I’m absolutely thrilled to be lucky to train them. It’s up to them, they will decide. I’ll take two there, that’s fine. We can do it.”

Disco Partner won the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitation after racing fourth of five early. He glided up on the outside in the stretch and passed runners as if he were breezing by morning workmates. Despite the ease with which he appeared to win, Disco Partner completed 6 furlongs in 1:06.97, just .10 off the course record.

“He’s a fun horse. He loves Belmont, he trains well. Look at him, it’s like a morning workout for him. It’s easy,” Clement observed as he watched the replay on the infield board. “As a trainer, I don’t take care of the time. The important thing is to win the race and as long as he comes back safe and wins, I’m very happy with that.”