Finest Work Stakes Debut Victory in John Hettinger

September 30, 2022

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Ted Hoover’s Finest Work kept her consistent form afloat with a triumphant stakes debut, saving ground down the backstretch and staving off a late rally from familiar foe Marvelous Maude to capture Friday’s 13th running of the $125,000 John Hettinger for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward travelling nine furlongs on the inner turf at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.

A three-time winner of four starts this year, the George Weaver-trained Finest Work came into the John Hettinger from an open company allowance triumph on September 10 over the Monmouth Park turf. The 4-year-old Outwork bay began her season with a pair of victories travelling seven furlongs on the Widener turf course at Belmont Park before finishing second, one length behind returning rival Marvelous Maude, in a 1 1/16-mile open company turf allowance in July at Saratoga Race Course. 

Finest Work broke well from her outermost post 9 as longshot Vienna Code and multiple stakes-winner Make Mischief engaged in battle exiting the chute. She split the field from fifth into the first turn as Vienna Code established a clear lead over Make Mischief through an opening quarter-mile in 23.40 seconds and a half-mile in 48.37 over the firm turf. 

Nearing the far turn, Finest Work came under a drive by Manny Franco and made a sweeping four wide move as the field approached the quarter pole. Vienna Code gave way while Make Mischief assumed the lead at the top of the stretch with a menacing Finest Work gaining with every stride. At the quarter-pole, Finest Work gained a slight advantage and drew clear of Make Mischief while fending off a late rally from Marvelous Maude and Runaway Rumour, who moved in tandem, to win by a half-length in a final time of 1:48.50. Marvelous Maude, the 3-2 post time favorite, finished second a neck ahead of Runaway Rumour. 

Rounding out the order of finish were Make Mischief, Pure Bode, Classic Colors, Ice Princess, Classic Lady and Vienna Code. 

Returning $18.80 for a $2 win wager, Finest Work enhanced her record to 11-5-2-2. Cashing $68,750 in victory, she brought her lifetime earnings up to $272,050. 

Franco, who piloted Finest Work for the first time in the John Hettinger, said he and his filly were on the same page. 

“By the three-eighths [pole], I felt they were getting kind of close to me,” said Franco. “I gave her her head a little bit and she was making her move a little early, but at the same time, that’s the move I wanted to do because I wanted to get the jump. George did a great job. This filly is improving a lot and it seems she’s got it [figured out]. I’m just glad to be part of the win. She did really well.”

Knowing that the John Hettinger distance was likely her ceiling, Franco said he was anxious to reach the finish line. 

“I was looking for the wire. I knew the mile and an eighth was going to be a little far for her, but we made it,” Franco said. “George told me to try to get her to relax and try to sit there as long as I could, and that’s what it took to do it. It worked out.”

Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard Marvelous Maude, said his filly had a hard time with the turf course. 

“She took a while to run in the second turn,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “For some reason, she couldn’t make up the ground in the turn. So I kept making her work harder than usual, because she’s usually there for you. Maybe she didn’t like [the course]. It took more riding, and the other horse got the jump on me.”

Bred in the Empire State by Repole Stable, Finest Work is out of the two-time winning Pleasantly Perfect mare Nero’s Pleasure, who is a half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Burning Roma. She was bought for $40,000 at the 2019 OBS October Yearling Sale, where she was consigned by Stuart Morris. 

Live racing resumes on Saturday with an 11-race card, featuring four graded stakes worth a total of $1.4 million. The blockbuster program is spearheaded by the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward and also features two Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifiers – the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne [Juvenile] and the Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo [Juvenile Fillies Turf]. Also featured on the program is the Grade 3, $200,000 Belmont Turf Sprint. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern. 

America’s Day at the Races will present live coverage and analysis of every day of Belmont at the Big A on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont at the Big A, and the best way to bet every race of the fall meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.

By Ryan Martin
Photo by Adam Coglianese

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