Drafted (outside) holds off Little Vic to win the $135K Gravesend (Chelsea Durand)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Veteran gelding Drafted needed every inch of the Aqueduct Racetrack stretch to win a dramatic photo finish, but did so under a well-timed ride from Luis Rodriguez Castro to score a nose victory in Friday’s $135,000 Gravesend, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by David Duggan and owned by Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin D. Hilbert and Thomas E. O’Keefe, Drafted scored his fourth stakes victory of the year, adding to Grade 3 scores in the Toboggan at the Big A and the Runhappy at Belmont Park, along with the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park. The 8-year-old son of Field Commission improved from a last-out fifth-place finish on October 29 in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler to score his 10th lifetime trip to the winner’s circle.
“I didn’t think we’d won,” said Duggan. “I thought second wasn’t a bad run, but when I watched the slow-mo [replay] I thought, my God, I think we got up. I’m delighted. It set up perfectly. I’m delighted for the horse and delighted for the connections. He’s a cool, old horse.”
Drafted emerged in good order from post 3 and settled at the rear of the five-horse field as longshot Bezos rushed up the rail to lead through an opening quarter-mile in 22.58 seconds over the fast main track. The Carlos Olivero-piloted Little Vic tracked in second while post-time favorite Morello, who broke awkwardly from post 4, raced in third several paths off the rail.
Morello and Little Vic came under a ride as the field rounded the turn and looked to be a major threat to Bezos, but the pacesetter clung to a precarious lead through a half-mile in 45.38 as Drafted passed post-time favorite Three Two Zone and began to steadily make up ground from well off the pace at the top of the lane.
Bezos and his two rivals were strung three-wide across the track as the trio passed the eighth pole before Little Vic poked his head in front at the sixteenth marker, but Drafted continued to find more with giant strides down the center of the course under strong urging from Rodriguez Castro. Little Vic was alone on the lead in the final 100 yards, but Drafted put his nose down just in time to win the photo in a final time of 1:10.69.
The Jose Lezcano-piloted Morello ran on gamely to secure show honors one length ahead of Bezos with Three Two Zone rounding out the order of finish.
Seven horses were scratched, including trainer scratches Greeley and Ben and Synthesis. Other scratches included Beren, who finished second in the Dave’s Friend today at Laurel Park; the trio of Smooth B, Repo Rocks and Twisted Ride, who are entered in the rescheduled Blitzen on January 4 at Parx Racing; and Amundson, who is entered in a New Year’s Day allowance at the Big A.
Duggan said he opted to skip the Grade 3 Fall Highweight on November 26 at Aqueduct to give Drafted some rest between starts.
“He’s an older horse. You can’t be going out drinking every weekend – you can relate, you know,” said Duggan, with a laugh. “Once he gets his freshening, he’s back and he can go at it again. He’s a famous horse at this stage. They’ll write books about him.”
Rodriguez Castro, who scored a similar off-the-pace victory earlier this year with Drafted in the Mr. Prospector, said the seasoned gelding has an impressive turn of foot.
“He always closes really hard,” Rodriguez Castro said. “When I’m at the quarter-pole that close, he always gives me a big effort at the end. We won at Monmouth the same way. Thank God today he did the same. He always tries hard at the end and we got the job done.
Drafted will now likely turn his attention to a title defense in the Grade 3 Toboggan on January 28 at Aqueduct, a race he will contest for the third time in his career.
“It’s the next thing,” Duggan said. “He’s got the freshening and he’s got the momentum right now. That will be the goal.”
Drafted spent the bulk of his career at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, U.A.E., where he scored Group 3 victories in the Al Shindagha Sprint and Mahab Al Shimaal for previous trainer Doug Watson from 2017-20. He arrived in Duggan’s barn in late 2020, and while he was winless in his seven-start 2021 campaign, he found rejuvenated form this year to post a career-best season in wins .
Bred in Florida by John Foster, Barbara Hooker and Field Commission Partnership, Drafted banked $74,250 in earnings and boosted his bankroll to $1,157,443 through a record of 33-10-3-4. He returned $14 for a $2 win ticket.
Olivero said Little Vic, who entered from a last-out victory in the City of Laurel at its namesake track, needed to find his best stride again down the stretch.
“He lost a little bit of momentum around the turn and I had to come back and start again,” said Olivero. “I thought we won.”
Live racing resumes Saturday at the Big A with a nine-race card, featuring the $150,000 Queens County in Race 8. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present live coverage and analysis of the Aqueduct fall meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
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