OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Mendham Racing Stable’s Geno withstood a stewards’ inquiry and a jockey’s objection to take home the winner’s share of the $500,000 purse in Saturday’s Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series for eligible state-sired juveniles going seven furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The son of Big Brown, who exited post 6 in the 11-horse field under Jorge Vargas, Jr., was held four lengths back in fifth as 8-5 post-time favorite Unique Unions, who needed a shoe repair in the paddock prior to the race, led through an opening quarter-mile in 22.71 seconds.
Geno raced comfortably on the inside path going down the backstretch and came under a strong hand ride from Vargas, Jr. rounding the turn after a half-mile in 46.48.
Unique Unions maintained a precarious lead at the stretch call as Vargas, Jr. angled Geno to the middle of the racetrack and passed Bustin Pietre, while taking dead aim at the tiring pacesetter at the furlong marker.
The one-eyed Un Ojo, with Trevor McCarthy up from the outermost post 11, started to make his bid for the lead and was full of run as Geno began to drift to his right nearing the sixteenth pole as Vargas continued left-handed urging, causing him to make contact with Un Ojo as the pair battled down to the finish.
A few strides before the wire, Geno made his final surge and bested the Anthony Dutrow-trained Un Ojo by a neck in a final time of 1:25.88 over the fast track.
A stewards’ inquiry and a jockey’s objection by McCarthy regarding the contact in the stretch run resulted in no change.
Unique Unions completed the trifecta, four lengths clear of Hot Stepper with Kenner, Stirdatpot, Bustin Pietre, Maseta, Iron Lion in Zion, Hoboken Jack and Safalow’s Mission rounding out the order of finish.
Vargas, Jr. said he was pleased to come out of the inquiry with his victory intact.
“Nothing really happened,” Vargas, Jr. said. “My horse got to waiting on horses a bit. He [Un Ojo] came running on the outside and bumped my horse on his rear end a little bit.”
Vargas, Jr. had ridden Geno in his previous two starts, including a sixth-place finish in the Central Park at Aqueduct last time out.
“I love this horse,” said Vargas, Jr. “He’s so classy. He does whatever you want him to do. Last time I rode him, I was sort of knocking my head because I didn’t ride him that well. But everything paid off today.”
McCarthy said he believes the contact with Geno cost Un Ojo the race.
“My horse is a pretty big, gangly horse and it doesn’t take much to get him off stride and when he [Geno] bumped me – I was going by him,” said McCarthy. “When he bumped me, it took all the momentum away from him.
“I had a great position,” McCarthy added. “I was able to tuck him in around the turn and cut the corner and then get him back out. He had a great trip. It was just really unfortunate that he got bumped and lost all his momentum. At the sixteenth pole, it looked like I was a winner.”
McCarthy said Un Ojo, who is missing his left eye, showed no signs of any hinderance in the race.
“He knows what to do,” McCarthy said. “He’s very smart. I worked him in the morning. Tony had me come over and get on him and he knows what to do. The eye is no problem. Most horses like that that I’ve ridden they show a little bit of a quirk but not him, he’s straightforward.”
The Great White Way was the first start on dirt for Geno, who had made all three of his previous starts on turf, including a runner-up effort by a nose going 1 1/16 miles in the Awad at Belmont for trainer David Donk.
Donk said he had confidence in Geno even before his debut win with John Velazquez up on September 21.
“I told Johnny I liked the horse and he was good enough to win first out,” Donk said. “He ran well in a stake the next time.”
“I don’t think he got the greatest trip last time,” Donk added. “He breezes really well on the dirt and I needed to try him somewhere on the dirt. This is as good a spot as I could have found. Jorge gave him a great ride.”
Bred in New York by Pete Martine, Geno earned $275,000 for his win in the Great White Way, improving his record to 4-2-1-0 and bringing his total purse earnings to $337,250. A $2 win ticket on Geno returned $18.80.
Great White Way Replay
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card featuring the $100,000 Gravesend in Race 7 and the $125,000 Queens County in Race 8. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the winter meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Mary Eddy/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Geno (Chelsea Durand)