OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Zilla Racing Stables, Acqua Nova Stable and Black Jack Racing’s Jackson Heights graduated in style when rallying from last to first to take the $125,000 Bertram F. Bongard, a seven-furlong sprint for state-bred juveniles, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Trained by Orlando Noda and expertly piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, Jackson Heights sprung an upset as the second longest shot on the board at 24-1, earning the first victory of his career after a last-out third-place finish over sloppy and sealed going in a state-bred maiden special weight on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course.
Away slowly from post 5 in the field of five, Jackson Heights settled well off the pace in last under a patient Castellano as post-time favorite Arctic Arrogance, with Jose Lezcano up, sprinted to the front to lead the compact field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.49 seconds over the fast main track. Donegal Surges tracked in second to the outside while General Banker moved up along the rail to sit third.
Positions remained unchanged through a half-mile in 47.31 before Arctic Arrogance was asked for more from Lezcano with Donegal Surges giving pressure in the turn and the pair opening up on a backpedaling General Banker. While the two frontrunners appeared to be in the clear, Jackson Heights gained with every stride from the back of the pack and quickly improved to pass Donegal Surges at the stretch call.
Arctic Arrogance clung to the lead with an eighth of a mile to the finish, but Jackson Heights continued to find more under urging from Castellano and collared his foe at the sixteenth pole to score the two-length victory in a final time of 1:26.04. Arctic Arrogance held place honors by 3 3/4 lengths over Donegal Surges with Blame It On Daddy and General Banker completing the order of finish.
Noda said Jackson Heights relished the fast going.
“[It was] a short field and he was working well on the dirt. Overall, I think you’ve got to take a chance, even if they’re a maiden,” said Noda. “He was showing good dirt form from the beginning, and the owners tried the turf. I think he showed that he likes the dirt.”
Noda praised Castellano’s handling and said he was pleased to see Donegal Surges apply some pressure to the Linda Rice-trained Arctic Arrogance.
“If Linda’s horse went by himself, I knew the race would be over. But when I saw them fighting up front, I thought that was a good set up,” said Noda. “He [Castellano] didn’t rush the horse, he kept finding little by little and we got to the wire first.”
Castellano said he was not deterred by the slow start.
“He never [breaks sharp]. I think he’s the type of horse you have to leave alone,” said Castellano. “He doesn’t break well out of the gate. You have to let him settle and come from behind. I didn’t want to rush him and be too close like I did last time. I wanted to break and sit and make one run.”
Jackson Heights showed his ability to close in his last outing when he improved from fifth to third under Castellano for the first time, something the veteran rider said gave him confidence going into the Bongard.
“I felt really good today. When I rode him the first time in Saratoga, it was a sloppy track and he still finished third. He kept passing horses, passing horses and I think today the fast track and a little more speed was good for him,” said Castellano. “I know he was a longshot, but the way he can set it up, I knew he would be a perfect horse to come from behind. I let him develop down the backside and Orlando Noda did a good job with him – he gave me the confidence to ride the way I wanted to today and I think it paid off. They went quick early, I sat behind and just made one run.”
A dark bay son of Union Jackson, Jackson Heights was bred in the Empire State by Sequel Stallions New York and banked $68,750 in victory. Out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Queen of the Night, a half-sister to multiple Group 1-winner Falbrav, Jackson Heights returned $50.50 for a $2 win wager.
Live racing resumes Friday at the Big A with a nine-race card, featuring the $125,000 John Hettinger in Race 7. 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 Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
Main photo: Jackson Heights wins the Bertram F. Bongard (NYRA/Coglianese)
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