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.

Racing will shift to the Aqueduct’s winterized inner dirt track when live racing resumes on Wednesday, December 3, following two dark days. First race post is 12:30 p.m.

Trained by John Morrison, Here Comes Rita sat just off of pacesetter Twistaway, who reeled off splits of 25.39, 51.47, 1:17.08 and 1:41.43 on the sloppy main track. Here Comes Rita, a 3-year-old daughter of Raffie’s Majesty, took the lead coming off the turn and drew away for the win in 1:54.40. It was her fourth win in seven tries and her first stakes victory. It was worth $10.60 to the $2 win players among the crowd of 2,520.

“The girl who gallops her at the farm said she would run on anything, and she proved it,” Morrison said. “I’m very, very pleased. She had a lot of two-year-old issues and didn’t go into training until this time last year. The owners were very patient in giving her time to develop. And it has paid off. Our plans were to give her a little break after this, but we’ll see.”

Point Me to It was up for second, with favored My Dinah, Twistaway, Precise Lady, Borrowing Base, Yet Again and Morning Gallop

MONTAUK HANDICAP QUOTES

Winning trainer John Morrison of Here Comes Rita (No. 8): “The girl who gallops her at the farm said she would run on anything, and she proved it. I’m very, very pleased. She had a lot of two-year-old issues and didn’t go into training until this time last year. The owners were very patient in giving her time to develop. And it has paid off. Our plans were to give her a little break after this, but we’ll see.”

Winning jockey Pablo Fragoso: “When I looked at the past performances, I saw she had speed. When I talked to Mr. (John) Morrison, he told me to stay just off the pace. It was her first time going longer and she did everything right. She’ll only get better from this race.”