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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AQUEDUCT NOTES; Sunday, Dec.7, 2008

The United States Marine Corps's annual "Toys for Tots" program was a big winner at Aqueduct Racetrack over the weekend.

Trainer Gary Contessa pledged 10 percent of his earnings on Saturday to the cause, and that total was matched by the New York Racing Association. The minimum to Toys for Tots was $2,000.

Meanwhile, Big A fans and employees contributed four giant boxes of new toys. Cash contributions were still being calculated on Sunday.

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Saturday, December 06 2008


With six starts to his credit, Fiddlers Afleet is the most experienced of the 10 two-year-old New York-breds entered in the main body for Sunday’s 30th running of the $75,000-added Damon Runyon.

And while Fiddlers Afleet has not run worse than third, he has only one victory. In his only start beyond six furlongs, he broke from post 8 and was a distant third in Belmont Park’s Sleepy Hollow Stakes on New York Showcase Day back on October 18.

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The New York Racing Association, host to the greatest number of Grade 1 Thoroughbred races in North America, will raise the purses on 13 of them offered at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course in 2009. The hikes are part of the 2009 NYRA Stakes Schedule, which was approved by NYRA’s Board of Directors at its monthly meeting on Wednesday. It now awaits approval from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

The total value of the 2009 NYRA Stakes schedule for 177 stakes races is $34,765,000, of which $28,780,000 is for 113 graded stakes races (40 Grade 1 races, 41 Grade 2 races and 32 Grade 3 races). This includes $350,000 for three steeplechase races: the Grade 2, $100,000-added A.P. Smithwick and the Grade 1, $100,000 New York Turf Writers’ Cup at Saratoga, and the Grade 1, $150,000 Lonesome Glory during Belmont Park’s Fall Championship Meet.

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Monday, December 01 2008


On Wednesday, December 3, racing will move to Aqueduct’s inner dirt track. Built in 1975, the one-mile oval was erected on the former site of the inner turf course to better accommodate winter racing.

The Big A’s inner dirt track played a big role in the careers of such horses as Thunder Rumble, Prairie Bayou and Smarty Jones, all of whom won the Count Fleet. The Interborough Handicap produced such winners as Lottsa Talc, Xtra Heat and Oprah Winney. Wayward Lass, King’s Swan, Evening Attire, Peeping Tom, Missy’s Mom, Magnolia Jackson, Dixie Brass, Plankton, It’s Acedemic, More to Tell, Honorable Miss, Boom Towner and Affirmed Success are among Aqueduct’s more accomplished inner dirt track alumni."

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By Francis LaBelle Jr.

A starting gate malfunction delayed the start of Sunday afternoon’s 29th running of the $81,825 Montauk Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares by just over half an hour, but the wait didn’t seem to bother Thomas, Michael and Vincent Murray’s Here Comes Rita, who carried jockey Pablo Fragoso to a 2 ¼-victory in the sloppy nine-furlong final race of Aqueduct’s main track season.

Because of the delay, darkness forced the cancellation of Sunday’s ninth race, which was scheduled to go to post at 4:12 p.m. The announcement of the cancellation was made at 4:25 p.m. ET – sunset was at 4:29 pm. -- and the ninth race became an “ALL” for all multiple wagers (i.e., Pick 6, Pick 3, Pick 4, late Double). The track remained open for simulcasting, and will also be open for simulcasting on Monday and Tuesday, December 1-2.

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Sunday, November 30 2008


By Francis LaBelle Jr.

Charles E. Fipke’s Tale of Ekati won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial here at Aqueduct Racetrack back on April 5 and his only other victory of the year came in Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Jerome Handicap on October 5.

Trainer Barclay Tagg hadn’t been exactly lighting it up either, entering Saturday’s card in an 0-for-28 slump.

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All through the lane Saturday afternoon, jockey Ramon Dominguez kept looking back to see if there was any competition coming for Fox Hill Farm’s front-running favorite Old Fashioned. All he saw a growing distance between his mount and the six other horses entered in Aqueduct’s 95th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen for two-year-olds at nine furlongs.

Now, there is something to look forward to.

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Springside, dismissed at 5-1, overtook heavily favored Sky Diva in the lane and continued on to 9 ½-length upset Saturday afternoon in the 87th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Demoiselle for two-year-old fillies at nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Owned by James and Alice Sapara, the Awesome Again filly was vanned off following her victory, which came in 1:51.71 on the fast main track. According to Dr. Anthony Verderosa, chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, Springside suffered what appears to be a fracture of the right-front pastern and was taken for x-rays. It was her first start on a conventional dirt track.

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AQUEDUCT NOTES, Saturday, Nov. 29,2008

The Maryland racing circuit has a history of producing quality jockeys who have moved on to successful careers in New York, notably Edgar Prado and Kent Desormeaux (both Hall of Famers), Mike Luzzi and Ramon Dominguez.

As racing at Aqueduct switches to the inner dirt track on Wednesday, among the new faces in New York this winter will be two additions from Maryland: Sheldon Russell, the leading rider at the current Laurel Park meet, and Rosie Napravnik, who are expected to move their tack to the Big A.

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