By Dick Downey
Still Having Fun ran down Engage and Promises Fulfilled in deep stretch to win a thrilling rendition of the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park.
Timed in a swift 1:21.45, Still Having Fun prevailed by 1 1/4 length and returned $28.00 to win, $10.80 to place and $6.10 to show while racing at 13-1 odds off a 15-1 morning line.
Engage was a clear second, while Promises Fulfilled was another 3 1/4 lengths back at the finish line. World of Trouble was a neck out of the money, followed by Beautiful Shot, Givemeaminit, The Tabulator, Strike Power, Pure Shot, Madison's Luna and Aqua Bel Sar. Kanthaka was scratched this morning after coming up with a bruised heel.
The Maryland-bred Still Having Fun, trained by Tim Keefe, was cut back to one turn in his last outing after failing to run effectively when stretched out earlier this year. After finishing sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Frederico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park on April 21, he finished second on a sloppy track to the dominating Mitole in the six-furlong Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness day. The seven-furlong distance and fast track of the Woody Stephens were a perfect fit today.
It was an especially good day for Keefe, who won his first graded stake.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Still Having Fun sat back in 10th, between 10 and 11 lengths off the pace, while Promises Fulfilled and World of Trouble battled through blazing initial fractions of 21.46 and 43.68. That pair continued to the furlong marker in 1:08.43, but by then Still Having Fun had closed the gap to 3 1/2 lengths. Engage was rated mid-pack for a half-mile before advancing to the lead inside the final 100 yards only to be passed by the winner.
Still Having Fun is a son of Old Fashioned out of the Dehere mare Casual Kiss and is owned by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Terp Racing LLC. He was bred by his trainer and Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGinnes. Still Having Fun now has four wins from eight career starts with two seconds.
Timothy Keefe: "It feels great. I was hoping it would coincide with my 500th win, too, but I'll take it. This is great. I'm just thankful to Gary and Adam (Wachtel) for buying into this horse and having the faith to keep him with me, and thank Jim Scott and Terp Racing for over the years supporting me with a lot of horses.
"We just always hoped he was a nice horse. Jimmy gave me some money to go to Timonium like he does every year to buy a horse, and I bought this one. Obviously, he's fulfilled a lot of dreams.
"For me it just felt like it was going in slow motion and then I looked up at the time and it was 21 and change, and there wasn't any slow motion about that. I talked to Joel, and said he's going to be back. He's a closing sprinter and the last quarter of a mile he's got a big kick. Don't leave him too much to do but don't be too impatient with him, and he'll come running."
Joel Rosario: "I had a perfect trip because there was a lot of speed in front of me. He was very comfortable. He was a little far back but i was just waiting until we were turning for home to set him down and ride him. By the eighth pole, I knew I had it. He has such a big stride."
Jose Ortiz, runner-up jockey on Engage: "I had a good trip inside and there was enough pace in front of us. The fractions were very fast. I was four or five lengths off them, and I think I was in a good spot the whole race. I wasn't expecting anybody to come and run me down, but that other horse did. My horse responded very well when I took him into the clear. He ran a big race today, but he was just second-best. He's improving and moving forward. Today, he was full of run. I think he ran very hard and did very well. He ran a good race."
Jason Servis trainer of beaten favorite and fourth-place finisher World of Trouble: "They were smoking. I would have loved to be laying fourth, but he was a little sharp, and there was no taking back. He might have been a little too fresh, but it is what it is. We'll live to see another day."
Irad Ortiz Jr. rider aboard World of Trouble: "He went a little too fast too early. He put me there. I wasn't chasing, but I wish he left a little more for me. It didn't work out for me, but we'll take it."