Monday, January 05 2009


By Francis LaBelle Jr.

Justwhistledixie, the most accomplished of the field Sunday, proved to be a deserving favorite as she scored a 3 ½-length victory over Gnome’s Delight in the 32nd running of the $70,795 Ruthless Stakes for three-year-old fillies at six furlongs.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and Lakland Farm, the Dixie Union filly overtook longshot Indian Rush, who had gone the first quarter in 22.41 and the half in 46.05 on Aqueduct’s fast inner dirt track. With jockey Rajiv Maragh in the irons, Justwhistledixie ran by her target and was never seriously challenged, as she completed the sprint in 1:10.81 for her third straight victory after two losses.

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Thursday, January 01 2009


For the past four winters, trainer Karl Grusmark has been making his mark at Laurel Race Course in Maryland. But for 2009, the 65-year-old New Englander will be calling New York his home, aiming his 15-horse stable at Aqueduct’s inner track meet.

He will be firing one shot in Sunday’s 32nd running of the $65,000-added Ruthless Stakes for three-year-old fillies when he saddles Robyn Kalaidjiam’s Indian Rush in the six-furlong sprint.

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By Francis LaBelle Jr.

Like a lot of us, trainer Tom Albertrani is not exactly upset that 2008 is over.

Recent weeks have been especially harsh on Albertrani, who was winless with his first dozen starters to open Aqueduct’s inner track and close out the year.

But 2009 is here and Albertrani started off a winner with his only starter on Thursday afternoon, as Darley Stable’s Zada Belle dismissed four rivals in the 88th renewal of the $69,265 Interborough Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

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Aqueduct Racetrack in January might not be where one would expect to find the next Kentucky Derby winner, but it was just five years ago that a Pennsylvania-bred colt named Smarty Jones took the first step on the road to winning the Derby when he took the Big A’s Count Fleet Stakes, the first three-year-old stakes of the year in New York.

On Saturday, trainer Steve Asmussen finds out if Turtle Bird Stables’ Haynesfield can take that same step as he faces six other sophomores in the 34th running of the $65,000-added Count Fleet. The one mile, 70 yard race is included on the resumes of 1993 Preakness winner Prairie Bayou and 1992 Travers winner Thunder Rumble and was won last year by Giant Moon, who went on to complete in the Preakness, finishing eighth behind Derby winner Big Brown.

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By Jenny Kellner

When longshot Lord Kipling ranged up near favored Delosvientos on the far turn of Wednesday’s $84,050, 1 5/8th mile Gallant Fox Handicap, owner and trainer Giuseppe Iadisernia was not in the least worried. For almost 11 furlongs, the five-year-old gelding had been cruising along on an uncontested lead, and if past history was any indication, Delosvientos would handle the challenge with ease.

And that’s just what he did. Shaking off his rival, Delosvientos pulled clear to an 11 ¼-length victory in the 70th edition of the Gallant Fox a snowy New Year’s Eve, extending his record at 12 furlongs or more to five-for-five.

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For the past two month, Jeff Barkley has been settling into his new role as the trainer of record for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Stables, a position that opened up when Larry Jones announced he would be retiring after the Breeders’ Cup in 2009. A former assistant to Jones, the 47-year-old native of Indiana had been out on his own for the past three years, racing primarily at Prairie Meadows and Turfway Park.

He was successful enough, having complied a 10-12-8 mark from 66 starters through the first 10 months of 2008, but when the call came from Porter, there wasn’t much hesitation.

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Monday, December 29 2008


For many people, New Year’s Eve presents an opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months and perhaps to make plans for the coming year.

For Thoroughbred owner and trainer Gary Katz, it’s a chance to take a deep breath and marvel at life’s funny twists and turns.

Wednesday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack, Katz will be saddling his five-year-old gelding Critical Acclaim in the $75,000-added Gallant Fox Handicap, a one mile, five-furlong marathon that is the final stakes race of the year in New York. The race, which drew a field of 10, will be Critical Acclaim’s last start for some months as Katz, 55, also takes a break to return his other full-time job as a practicing attorney.

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Saturday, December 27 2008


By Jenny Kellner

Trainer Todd Beattie had always thought Fabulous Strike was capable of rating behind horses. But having consistently drawn inside, the five-year-old son of Smart Strike just never got the opportunity and scored most of his victories on the lead .

On a foggy Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack, Fabulous Strike finally got the chance to show a new dimension. Taken back by jockey Ramon Dominguez as True Quality shot to the front in the Grade 3, $103,100 Gravesend Handicap, Fabulous Strike rallied through the stretch and went on to a 1¾-length victory in the six-furlong race, the final graded stakes of the year in New York.

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Monday, December 15 2008


In the middle of December, a mile and one quarter might not be the most popular distance for fillies and mares. But Sunday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack, it suited Borrowing Base just fine.

The five-year-old New York-bred daughter of Personal Flag scored the first stakes victory of her career in the 137th running of the $82,100 Ladies Handicap as she rallied through the stretch to beat Nijinsky Bullet by three lengths.

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Friday, December 12 2008


It’s always good to know what’s going on, and fans at Aqueduct Racetrack on New Year’s Day, Thursday, January 1, 2009, will be able to keep track of New York’s biggest races when they avail themselves of the 2009 New York Racing Association Calendar.

Because there is no admission or parking charge, Aqueduct fans will receive their NYRA calendars free on track with the purchase of any Post Parade magazine on New Year’s Day, or they can simply purchase a $1 coupon that may be redeemed for the calendar.

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Thursday, December 11 2008


Aqueduct’s inner track brings out some pretty tough customers, many of whom rack up big victories at other tracks where they go relatively unnoticed at other times of the year.

Saturday afternoon, however, it will be hard to overlook Rutledge Farm’s Researcher, who brings a three-race winning streak to the Big A for the 103rd running of the Grade 3, $100,000-added Queens County Handicap for three-year-olds and up at a mile and three-sixteenths on the inner dirt track.

Researcher is a 4-year-old, Virginia-bred gelded son of Two Smart who has fashioned a record of 7-3-2 from 13 starts. He has never been as sharp as he is now, however, coming off a two-month freshening to post victories in an off-the-turf mile race at Laurel, at nine furlongs at his home base at Charles Town and in Mountaineer Park’s Mountaineer Mile on a good track.

“I think there are several reasons why he is doing so good,” said trainer Jeff Runco. “We had tried him on the turf before, and he did just okay. He had some other issues, so we gave him time off. I think the rest and the return to the dirt have made a real change in him.”

The real noticeable change in Researcher has been in his Beyer Speed numbers. In his last two starts, he has fired off respective figures of 101 and 104.

“He’s a little older now and he is getting smarter, too,” Runco said. “In his last race at Mountaineer, he sat right off the lone speed (Ravalo), who wound up finishing second. It’s like he knows what he has to do.”

Researcher not only handles different tracks and different track conditions, but he also has worked well with different jockeys.

“We have been racing all over, so he gets a new jockey at every track,” Runco said.

The 49-year-old Runco, a former jockey himself, will turn over the riding duties on Saturday to an old friend, Mike Luzzi. A native of Omaha, Neb., who cut his teeth at the old Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack, Runco rode on the Mid-Atlantic circuit from 1979-’84.

In fact, Luzzi’s brother, John, who entered Thursday eight wins shy of 1,000 for his riding career, worked Researcher a half-mile on the fast track at Charles Town on December 3 in 49.20, breezing.

It took several months, but Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini finally became a graded stakes winner in New York when he won the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap in the mud here on November 15.

A son of Slew Gin Fizz, he also seemed to wake up after two average tries on turf. He made up a lot of ground in the Stuyvesant, but trainer Billy Turner seemed pleased that the horse appeared to be going easy at the end.

Third in the Stuyvesant, Temporary Saint figures to head to the lead in the Queens County under jockey Eddie Castro. The 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding sports a 4-2-3 record from 10 starts this year.

Grade 2 winner Sir Whimsey debuts for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old Jump Start colt has only one victory in six tries on Aqueduct’s inner track, but has hit the board in all but one of those tries.

Winless in three starts this year, Brilliant Son makes his inner track debut here for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The 5-year-old Stormin Fever horse may have value, as he came off a layoff to run third by a neck on the turf at Keeneland, and then “bounced” in his return to dirt in the muddy Stuyvesant, where he ran fifth.

Brilliant Son will be equipped with blinkers for the Queens County Handicap.

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Monday, December 08 2008


By Francis LaBelle Jr.

Turtle Bird Stable’s Haynesfield was ahead at every call Sunday afternoon and easily won the 30th running of the $83,775 Damon Runyon Stakes for two-year-old New York-breds at a mile and 70 yards at Aqueduct Racetrack.

In giving trainer Steve Asmussen his second winner of the day and jockey Ramon Dominguez the second of three winners on the afternoon -- Haynesfield set an uncontested pace of 23.46, 48,03, 1:13.84 and came home a 5 ¼-length winner in 1:42.51 on Aqueduct’s fast inner dirt track..

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