Nothing Better leads them every step of the way (Joe Labozzetta)
By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Colts Neck Stables’ Nothing Better returned to winning ways to successfully protect his title in Saturday’s seventh running of the listed $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship for 3-year-olds and upward going six furlongs over the Aqueduct Racetrack outer turf.
Decisive victories at the Big A are nothing new to Nothing Better, who last found the winner’s circle in track record-setting fashion in April after capturing a six-furlong allowance optional claimer on the outer turf course to stop the clock in 1:06.80. The Jorge Duarte, Jr.-trained 6-year-old Munnings gelding was winless in four starts since, but made amends with a gate-to-wire score under Dylan Davis to secure a third career stakes conquest.
“He loves this track,” Duarte, Jr. said. “We got lucky there was no rain this week and it was a firm turf course. He’s sharp. He likes the colder weather. He ran his race. Dylan put him on the lead and that was the plan.”
Nothing Better was away well from post 5 with 44-1 longshot Boat’s a Rockin and New York-bred graded stakes winner Dancing Buck keeping close company through an opening quarter-mile in 21.90 seconds over the firm going. Around the far turn, Nothing Better maintained his advantage with Dancing Buck and 67-1 shot Fore Harp in striking range to his outside and a ground-saving Boat’s a Rockin shuffled back to fourth through a half-mile in 44.38.
Davis lightly urged Nothing Better passing the quarter pole as Boat’s a Rockin found daylight when tipped out a path into the clear and launched a menacing rally with Alogon and 3-2 favorite Our Shot in pursuit. But Nothing Better would not be denied and strolled home a 1 3/4-length winner in a final time of 1:07.27.
Boat’s a Rockin completed a generous exacta, one length ahead of late-rallying Alogon who finished third. Our Shot, Witty, Dancing Buck, Fore Harp, Thin White Duke, Vacation Dance, Run Curtis Run, and Grateful Bred completed the order of finish. Wit, also eligible entrants Bring Me a Check and Sosua Summer as well as main track only entrants Durante and Sheriff Bianco were scratched.
Nothing Better, who returned $12.20 for a $2 win wager, entered from a narrow runner-up effort to next-out stakes-winner Today’s Flavor in a local allowance optional claimer on September 22 going the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship distance. The effort was his first start since a pair of fifth-place finishes in the Wolf Hill in July at Monmouth Park and the Grade 1 Jaipur in June at Belmont Park. He earned his first win at stakes level last August in the 5 1/2-furlong Rainbow Heir at Monmouth Park.
“In the middle of the summer, he wasn’t himself that day,” recalled Duarte, Jr. of his Wolf Hill effort. “He was a little nervous – four-way speed duel. It didn’t set up perfect. We gave him a little break and brought him back. The horse that beat us last time, he’s OK and came back and won again. Today, I didn’t see his kind of speed in this race, so hopefully we’d get a loose lead like we did last year. It seemed like a very similar race.”
Davis said he was pleasantly surprised how easily his horse made the lead.
“There’s a lot of speed in here, I was just hoping for a real clean break. Duarte didn’t really say I had to be on the lead, but he definitely wanted me kind of coming out running,” Davis said. “We got a clean break, he got into stride nicely. It wasn’t slow fractions, but he was comfortable there. After that, I was just working with him into the turn, really light on the bridle, and just keep him happy. He followed all the way through to the wire. Duarte did a good job with him.”
Duarte, Jr. said an international endeavor could be in the realm of possibility, and mentioned the Group 2 1351 Turf Sprint in February at King Abdulaziz Racecourse and the Group 1 Al Quoz Turf Sprint in March at Meydan Race Course as possible long term targets.
“We’ll have to talk to the connections – there’s still some big money in the Middle East,” Duarte, Jr said. “We’ll talk to them and see if that’s an option this year. The horse is very sharp right now and looked good out there.”
After banking $82,500 in victory, Nothing Better surpassed the half-million mark in earnings and now has a career bankroll of $566,217 through a 25-9-5-3 record.
Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, Nothing Better is out of the Irish-bred Duke of Marmalade mare One True Love – a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Folk Opera. He was a $230,000 purchase at the 2019 OBS April Sale.
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with nine-race card, featuring the $120,000 Central Park in Race 5 and the $135,000 Forever Together in Race 7. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.