cigar mile handicap & aqueduct races recap

Aqueduct belonged to Todd Pletcher and Irad Ortiz on Saturday, the pair both registering hat-tricks in Graded stakes. They combined with Mo Donegal (Remsen) and Nest (Demoiselle), with Ortiz beginning his haul on Lady Rocket (Go For Wand) and Pletcher completing his threesome in the feature Cigar Mile Handicap with Americanrevolution. Bizarrely, all three of Pletcher’s wins involved a stewards’ inquiry, with the placings unaltered each time.

Cigar Mile Handicap – Grade 1, $750,000, 1m, 3yo+

Pletcher on a roll with Revolution

The final day of Graded-stakes competition in New York this year was dominated by Todd Pletcher, who rattled off a hat-trick in the big prizes at Aqueduct on Saturday, culminating in Americanrevolution’s narrow victory in the Cigar Mile Handicap.

The Constitution colt, the 5-2 favourite, justified his position in the market with a breakthrough Graded-stakes score, sitting some way off the pace set by barnmate Following Sea and looking in a little trouble just after halfway, rider Luis Saez getting down to work earlier than he might have expected.

“When he came to the three-eighths pole, he was off the bit,” said Saez. “But when he switched leads, he gave me that kick and I knew I could win.”
He was right. Americanrevolution responded well and moved up to challenge at the top of the stretch before bumping the rallying Plainsman in mid-stretch, but by then he was really rolling and ran down Following Sea inside the last sixteenth, driving on to score by a half-length, stopping the clock in 1:36 and three-fifths and giving Pletcher the exacta for good measure. Plainsman kept on for third, two and a half lengths back. The stewards looked into the interference between winner and third but declared no foul.

“We weren’t 100 per cent positive about the mile, but a lot of times good horses do multiple things really well and I think he’s a great example of that,” said Pletcher. “It’s great to see him get that Grade 1 win. And Following Sea ran great, he kept fighting back after being under pressure most of the way.”
Americanrevolution, whose only previous experience of Graded racing had been when third behind Hot Rod Charlie in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, was taking his record to five-for-seven, and he will be given a break before returning next year for the big summer races at nine and ten furlongs.

Two who won’t be coming back are fifth-placed Code Of Honor and the disappointing Independence Hall, who was a never-in-it seventh. Both are off to stud, at Lane’s End and WinStar respectively.

Remsen Stakes – Grade 2, $250,000, 1m 1f, 2yo

Mo Donegal prevails in a thriller

Pletcher had begun his big-ticket harvest two races earlier in the Remsen, where Mo Donegal ground out success and ten points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and also survived a stewards’ inquiry after some stretch-duel interference.

Fromanothamutha had taken the field along practically at walking pace until the top of the turn, and everything happened in a hurry after that. The slight favourite Zandon had the call at the eighth pole but Mo Donegal came four wide to catch him, and the two colts bumped in the closing stages before Mo Donegal put his nose in front when the camera clicked, stopping the clock in 1:53 and three-fifths and paying off at $4.90. There was almost ten lengths back to Midnight Chrome in third.

“We got together a little before the wire, but it was a beautiful race,” said winning rider Irad Ortiz. Opinions differed. “Mo Donegal should have come down,” said Chad Brown, trainer of the runner-up. The stewards reckoned it no more than racetrack action, leaving both trainers with their Derby dreams intact but Pletcher by far the happier of the pair.
“I thought he ran great. It looked like when he got there he’s still trying to figure out how to polish it off,” said Pletcher. Brown shrugged. “I thought we had the best horse in the race,” he said, probably through gritted teeth.

Demoiselle Stakes – Grade 2, $250,000, 1m 1f, 2yo fillies

A neck’s enough for Nest

Everything comes in threes. Pletcher scored the middle leg of his hat-trick in the Demoiselle with Nest, whose involvement in yet another inquiry meant, almost unbelievably, that all three of Pletcher’s Graded-stakes victories had been rubber-stamped by the stewards.

Again it was Irad Ortiz and John Velazquez on the carpet, half an hour after their Remsen discussions. Again Ortiz had come wide down the stretch on Nest, again Velazquez lodged a claim of interference against his mount Venti Valentine. Again, the stewards deemed it six of one, half a dozen of the other, and took no action.

The record books confirm that the 8-5 favourite Nest prevailed by a neck over Venti Valentine, who had three-quarters of a length in hand over long-time leader Magic Circle in third. The winner covered the distance in 1:55 and change, somewhat slower than the colts managed in the Remsen. Nest, a daughter of Curlin out of an AP Indy mare, was winning her first stakes, taking her record to two-for-three and banking ten points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

“There have been some tight finishes and a little drama to go along with it, but I’m thankful to be on the right side of it all,” said Pletcher, counting his blessings as well as his Graded wins.

Go For Wand Handicap – Grade 3, $250,000, 1m, 3yo+ F&M

Lady is a rocket

There was no need for the stewards to look at the result of the Go For Wand as the favourite Lady Rocket absolutely blitzed her rivals, leading from the gate and drawing off through the stretch to land the spoils by nine lengths.
It couldn’t have been a simpler job for jockey Irad Ortiz, who was sparking his own Graded-stakes hat-trick later completed by Mo Donegal and Nest.

“I just took it easy and tried to get her to relax up front and she relaxed. She waited for my call and that was the key. This was one of the best performances in her whole career,” said Ortiz of the Brad Cox-trained filly, for whom it was the fourth victory of 2021 and her first in a Graded stakes.
Lady Rocket covered the mile in 1:36 and one-half and paid out at $4.40. Bella Vita took second place, four and three-quarter lengths ahead of Truth Hurts.

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