Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack, the 4-year-old son of Posse added the $300,000 Carter Handicap to his local resume, rallying through the stretch to post a head victory over Fabulous Strike for his first Grade 1 win.
“We couldn’t be happier,” said Tom Ludt, president of Vinery Stables, which co-owns the colt with Fox Hill Farm. “We got a prep race into him at the Fair Grounds, we aimed for this spot, and we’re going to aim for another Grade 1 at Saratoga ($300,000 Forego, seven furlongs, Sept. 5). It was a great way to start off the year.”
Under jockey John Velazquez, Kodiak Kowboy was content to stay well off brisk early fractions of 22.23 and 44.52 set by Fabulous Strike, who was under pressure from Driven by Success, then moved up five wide on the turn to launch his bid at the top of the lane. Charging down the middle of the stretch, Kodiak Kowboy caught the leaders in the final jumps to hit the wire in 1:22.47.
“He makes you work for it, but he runs,” said Velazquez. “At the eighth pole, I was very confident, and when I got to the sixteenth pole. He started to slow down a little bit. I said, ‘Oh no buddy you got to keep going.’ Then, he jumped a footprint near the wire, and I said, ‘My gosh!’ He gave me the impression that he was going to pass (the leaders). Once he got rolling on the turn, I knew I had a pretty good shot to win it.”
Fabulous Strike had two lengths on Driven by Success, who in turn was followed by Biker Boy, True Quality, Ah Day, Understatement and Tale of Ekati.
“I had a great trip other than I got pressured pretty hard the whole way around, and we ended up going quicker than you want to for this distance,” said jockey Ramon Dominguez, aboard the runner-up. “I was very proud of my horse; he ran hard and fought until the end. He just got outrun the last few strides.”
Trainer Bruce Levine, who scored his first career Grade 1 victory with Bustin Stones in last year’s Carter, was pleased with the effort put forth by Driven by Success, an 18-1 shot.
“This was a real Grade 1 – I was proud of him, he never quit trying,” said Levine. “I’ll probably keep him in stakes company but try to figure out where the top two aren’t running and take it from there,”
Kodiak Kowboy, sent off as the $1.90-1 favorite as part of an entry with Biker Boy, returned $5.80 for a $2 win bet as he earned $180,000 to become a millionaire. With a record of eight victories from 17 lifetime starts for trainer Larry Jones, Kodiak Kowboy has now earned $1,035,558.