Friday, November 28 2008


By Francis LaBelle Jr.

Maybe he’s just a traditionalist.

That explains why Walter Downey’s Fabulous Strike, sent off as the even-money favorite by Aqueduct’s Thanksgiving Day crowd of 3,239 Thursday afternoon, lead at all calls and easily defeated He’s So Chic in the 95th running of the $111,200 Fall Highweight Handicap.

Carrying top weight of 136 pounds – he spotted seven rivals from four to nine pounds – the 5-year-old Smart Strike gelding broke on top, entertained Grand Champion for about a half a mile and then glided over the fast track to a 1 ½-length victory in 1:09.02 for the six furlongs.

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Thursday, November 27 2008


Nick Zito has always taken the time to count his blessings, and he was more than willing to share the appraisal on Thanksgiving morning. The Hall of Fame trainer will send out Stone Farm’s Wanderin Boy at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday in the 20th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile – the feature on a nine-race card that will also include the 95th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen for two-year-olds at nine furlongs and the 87th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Demoiselle for two-year-old fillies at nine furlongs.

First race post is 12:25 p.m., and there will be self-service wagering only on Churchill Downs race 1 at 11:30 a.m.

Friday, Zito will be at Churchill Downs to saddle Tracy Farmer’s favored Commentator, a two-time winner of Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney, in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap.

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Wednesday, November 26 2008


HolidayFest at Aqueduct Racetrack begins tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 27, and with first race post at 11:25 a.m., there is plenty of time to get a day of racing in before the traditional feast.

Aqueduct’s last live race on Thursday will go to post at 3:10 p.m., with the second-floor clubhouse remaining open for simulcasting until approximately 5:30 p.m. Telebet/internet wagering closes at approximately 6 p.m.

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Monday, November 24 2008


It has not been a particularly good year for Idiot Proof. After posting a 4-2-1 mark from eight starts in 2007, including a Grade 1 win and a second to Midnight Lute in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Idiot Proof has yet to win a race in four starts this year.

But now in a new barn on a new coast, the 4-year-old Benchmark colt will try to reverse his fortunes in one of New York’s more popular and tradition-rich races, Thursday’s 95th running of the $100,000-added Fall Highweight Handicap at six furlongs.

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When Thoroughbred owner Jeff Puglisi expanded and restructured his racing operation in 2008, included in his business plan was a multi-million commitment to purchase 2-year-olds, the vast majority of which would be fillies.

“In terms of residuals, fillies hold their value better than colts,” explained trainer Steve Klesaris. “If they become graded stakes winner and have some family, they’re worth something.”

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Sunday, November 23 2008


By Francis LaBelle Jr.

Winter Park Partners’ Wishful Tomcat won his third consecutive race and became a graded-stakes winner at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday afternoon, taking jockey Ramon Dominguez to a front-running 1 ¾-length victory over That’srightofficer in the 63rd running of the Grade 3, $110,100 Discovery Handicap for three-year-olds at nine furlongs.

“He has a heart of gold,” said trainer Gary Contessa, after the Tactical Cat colt returned $16.20 to win. “All I can say is, `Watch out New York-breds!’ I would like to see him dominate stakes races here this winter. It’s extra cold today; maybe it will push out the Florida trainers sooner.”

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Friday, November 21 2008

AQUEDUCT HOLIDAYFEST NOTES: Friday, November 21, 2008

Next Saturday’s 20th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile is the feature race of HolidayFest at Aqueduct Racetrack. It’s the biggest week of the Big A’s Fall Meet and will get the holiday season off to a running start.

Expected for the Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile are Arson Squad, Bribon (FR), Harlem Rocker, Kodiak Kowboy, Storm Play, Tale of Ekati, Visionaire and Wanderin Boy. Past the Point is questionable at this point.

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Thursday, November 20 2008


Deep into the racing season, Saturday’s 64th edition of the Grade 3, $100,000-added Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack offers three-year-olds one final chance to compete against their contemporaries.

Eight sophomores, all of whom officially become four years old on January 1, were entered in the 1 1/8th mile race, and all but two will be seeking their first victory in a graded stakes.

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Anak Nakal, who dead-heated for third with Ready’s Echo in the Belmont Stakes, is highweight at 121 pounds for Saturday’s 64th running of Aqueduct Racetrack’s Grade 3, $100,000-added Discovery Handicap for three-year-olds at nine furlongs.

Owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds and trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, the son of 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop rebounded from a fifth-place finish in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy to win the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park by a neck. He comes into the Discovery off a troubled second to Arson Squad in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup last month.

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Tuesday, November 18 2008

Staten Islander Surges to Win Aqueduct Handicapping Challenge

Jerry McClenin, a 51-year-old printing press operator from Staten Island, N.Y., claimed the $35,000 grand prize in the Aqueduct Fall Handicapping Challenge this past weekend, defeating 206 contestants from 16 different states and three different countries en route to the victory.

Along with the second and third place finishers, McClenin will be on the three-member Aqueduct Racetrack team in the 2009 NTRA/Daily Racing Form National Handicapping Championship (NHC), to be held this coming January 23-24 at the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa in Las Vegas. The NHC is giving out a grand total of $1 million in prize money with the first-place winner receiving $500,000 and the title of NTRA Handicapper of the Year, an honor the winner will receive at the 2008 Eclipse Awards, which will be held January 26, 2009, at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla.

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Saturday, November 15 2008


On a dreary Saturday afternoon Aqueduct, Dry Martini hit the spot.

The 5-year-old gelded son of Slew Gin Fizz, winless in six starts dating back to June 30, 2007, picked the right time to wake up as he came from last and rolled on to a 3¼-length victory over Stud Muffin in the 58th running of the Grade 3, $110,500 Stuyvesant Handicap.

So emphatic was his win, his first since taking the Grade 2 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows last year, that jockey Channing Hill eased up on him as he approached the wire. He still covered the muddy nine furlongs in 1:51.11.

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Friday, November 14 2008

AQUEDUCT NOTES, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008

The Race Track Chaplaincy is asking for help in providing Thanksgiving turkeys and other food items for backstretch families.

The Chaplaincy had hoped to begin distributing 100 turkeys next Friday, November 21, at Belmont Park. It has, however, already received more requests—and fewer turkeys than usual.

Gifts of turkeys, chickens, gift cards, hams and all sorts of nonperishable food are needed at the Belmont Park Race Track food pantry (2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont , N.Y., Gate 6; telephone: (516) 488-6000, ext 4063). Items may be delivered Monday through Friday, anytime between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

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