Law Professor Schools the Field in $125K Excelsior

April 1, 2023

Law Professor cruises home a winner in the Excelsior (Chelsea Durand)

By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Kentucky homebred Law Professor made a triumphant return to New York to capture Saturday’s $125,000 Excelsior, a nine-furlong test for older horses, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Rob Atras, the 5-year-old Constitution gelding entered from a distant third-place finish in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on February 18 at Oaklawn Park that the victorious Last Samurai exited to win the Grade 3 Essex at the Hot Springs, Arkansas oval and saw runner-up West Will Power come back to win last Saturday’s Grade 2 New Orleans Classic at Fair Grounds.

The Jose Lezcano-piloted Keystone Field won a three-way battle for the lead into the first turn with Miles D and Law Professor to mark the opening quarter-mile in 23.32 seconds over the muddy and sealed main track. Law Professor, who initially took back to third after exiting post 2, advanced outside of Miles D to secure second position entering the backstretch as Keystone Field reached the half-mile in 46.90.

Law Professor ranged up to the outside of Keystone Field to take command late in the final turn with three-quarters elapsing in 1:11.69 as Miles D angled off the rail to launch his bid, but there was no catching the versatile dark bay, who crossed the wire a 4 1/4-length winner in a final time of 1:50.34. Keystone Field stayed on strong down the lane to complete the exacta by four lengths over Miles D with the slow-starting Portos in fourth. Curlin’s Wisdom, Forewarned and Bourbonic rounded out the order of finish.

Franco, leading rider at the recently concluded Big A winter meet, said he rode with confidence.

“I broke sharp and made sure I got my position going to the turn,” Franco said. “I saw those two horses [Keystone Field and Miles D] wanted to go, so I just stayed back and went around there and the horse did the rest. He was just dragging me all the way to the quarter pole and when I asked him, he was there for me.”

Atras said Law Professor, who impressed with a 7 1/2-length score in the nine-furlong Queens County on January 7 in his seasonal debut here, had excelled in his training at Belmont Park and enjoys racing out of his own stall.

“I think being back here definitely helped. He likes it here and seems to run his best races here,” Atras said. “Even though we didn’t get the most ideal trip, Manny was able to work it out and he ran a big race. He trains well here. He can be a bit of a nervous horse and he was nice and settled in the paddock.”

Atras credited Franco, who was aboard for the Queens County score, with getting the sometimes temperamental Law Professor to rate.

Pets for Law Professor after a classy win in the Excelsior (Susie Raisher)

“Manny took him back a little bit, which I think was a very smart move because the pace was pretty hot,” Atras said. “Then when he re-engaged, he wanted to be a little rank, but Manny settled him down real nicely. He knows the horse and he rode him perfect after that.”

Lezcano said the stakes-place Keystone Field, a distant seventh last out in the Razorback, performed admirably.

“I think it was kind of fast today, but we were going pretty good,” Lezcano said. “He gave me a good race and everything he’s got. I think the best horse won the race.”

Law Professor spent his first 10 starts in the care of trainer Michael McCarthy, taking the off-the-turf 2021 Grade 2 Santa Anita Mathis Mile. He made a winning debut for Atras in September at Kentucky Downs, scoring a half-length victory in the restricted Tapit over turf ahead of a game second to multiple Grade 1-winner Life Is Good in the Grade 1 Woodward on October 1 at Belmont at the Big A. He closed out his 2022 campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland.

Law Professor banked $68,750 in victory while improving his record to 16-6-2-2. He paid $3 for a $2 win ticket.

Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with an eight-race card featuring the $100,000 Top Flight in Race 7. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern. 

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