Michael Matz was laughing and joking before the Grade II Dwyer Stakes, and smiling in the winner's circle. He did some sweating in between.
For four or five strides in the final furlong, it appeared as if Fast Falcon and jockey Rosie Napravnik would overtake Teeth of the Dog Saturday as the second season for 3-year-olds began. But the Dog had enough fight to hang on by a neck at hot Belmont Park.
"This is a class horse,'' the trainer said. "He can come from off the pace or go to the lead. He's pretty darn game, that's for sure.
"In the paddock, the owner Jose [Singer] said, 'What are the instructions? What did you tell the jockey last time?' I said, 'Nothing.' He said, 'Do the same thing.' ''
The 95th Dwyer duplicated the exacta of the $100,000 Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard, when the margin was 3¾ lengths. It was some consolation to Napravnik that her 11-1 shot almost knocked off the even-money favorite in the $200,000 rematch.
"I was just hoping he would get there,'' she said. "He ran a great race last time against Teeth of the Dog and had a much tougher trip than him. We got a pretty decent trip today, and it was a dogfight until the end. We lost today, but we might be able to win it next time.''
Teeth of the Dog got stuck between Morgan's Guerrilla, on the rail, and Zetterholm in a duel through a half-mile in 46.12 seconds. Teeth of the Dog led Morgan's Guerrilla by a head, with Zetterholm half a length farther back, after 6 furlongs in a quick 1:09.91. Napravnik and Fast Falcon moved from fifth at the three-eighths pole and swung four-wide into the stretch. The winner led Fast Falcon by a half-length at the eighth pole and never let him go by.
"The jock looks like a pretty good fit for him,'' Matz said of Joel Rosario, a recent arrival from California. Could it be kismet? Rosario is a native of the Dominican Republic and Teeth of the Dog was named for a golf resort there.
Teeth of the Dog paid $4 after going 11/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.34 for his third win in seven starts. Matz said the Jim Dandy (July 28, Saratoga) or the West Virginia Derby (Aug. 4, Mountaineer) might be next.
As Matz checked over Teeth of the Dog afterward, a groom began to hose down the colt, and spray hit the left side of the trainer's suit. He didn't mind. "I like being in the Belmont winner's circle,'' said Matz, who took the Belmont Stakes on June 9 with Union Rags. "I haven't been there that often.''
'Star' takes New York. Mystical Star ($11.80), trained by Christophe Clement and ridden by Jose Lezcano, beat Aruna by a length in the Grade II, $200,000 New York Stakes for fillies and mares. The time for 1¼ miles on firm turf was 2:00.13. Banimpire, who cost Martin Schwartz $3.1 million last fall, ran fifth as the 9-5 favorite for Napravnik and trainer Chad Brown.