Nothing Better. Photo by Susie Raisher
By Ryan Martin
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Colts Neck Stables’ Nothing Better kept a consistent season afloat, utilizing his typical frontrunning tactics to score a second stakes victory in Friday’s $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship, a six-furlong test for 3-year-olds and upward over the Big A outer turf.
Trained by Jorge Duarte, Jr., Nothing Better has never finished out of the money in six starts this season, including a stakes conquest in the Rainbow Heir on August 14 at Monmouth Park. The 5-year-old Munnings gelding carried his good form into a deep field that included of three graded stakes winners, turning back several challenges to win by a half-length.
Nothing Better emerged well from post 3 under Horacio Karamanos with New York-bred and 2-1 favorite Dancing Buck tracking a close second through an opening quarter-mile in 22.16 seconds over the firm turf. Nearing upper stretch through a half-mile in 44.37, Dancing Buck inched his way to even terms with Nothing Better, with the latter kicking away from his foe past the eighth-pole, but a new challenge loomed as Anaconda launched a late rally in the final furlong. Nothing Better had enough in the tank to maintain his advantage to the wire, covering the six furlongs in 1:07.61.
Anaconda finished another 1 3/4 lengths ahead of late-closing Thin White Duke. Completing the order of finish were Chewing Gum, Voodoo Zip, Dancing Buck, Scuttlebuzz, Run Curtis Run, Gear Jockey, and Yes and Yes. Bad Beat Brian and Nathan Detroit were scratched.
Returning a cool $20.20 for a $2 win wager, Nothing Better banked $82,500 in victory, which brought his career earnings up to $356,317 and record to 18-7-2-3. He saw added ground from his previous start, arriving off a one-length allowance triumph under Jevian Toledo going 5 1/2 furlongs over the Laurel Park turf.
Duarte, Jr., whose last stakes win on the NYRA circuit came with Introduced in the 2020 Smart N Fancy at Saratoga Race Course, said he knew the Michelle Nevin-trained Dancing Buck would be his biggest competition.
“Michelle’s horse had some gas, too. But my horse has been very fast at Monmouth, which is known to be a speedy track. We planned to play the break and try to go to the lead if they let us,” Duarte, Jr. said. “Once you commit [to the lead] here, you hardly see a speed duel. The guys here are pretty smart about that, so we tried to take advantage of that and today it worked out.”
Karamanos said he did exactly what was requested of him.
“The trainer told me, ‘Break in front and don’t look back,’ so that’s what I did. Jorge has done a good job with this horse,” Karamanos said. “He’s improving. Last time at Laurel, he won really nicely. He didn’t win with me, but he did it in a nice time – 1:02 and change. So, I felt like I had a nice shot. This is a really nice horse.”
Karamanos said he was pleasantly surprised when Dancing Buck and last out stakes winner Run Curtis Run were not as keen to make the lead.
“I sent him out and I took the lead right away,” Karamanos said. “I got him to relax a little and then at the eighth pole, I let him pick it up. He gave me one beautiful kick to the wire.”
Duarte, who recently celebrated his 100th career win, said Nothing Better would likely get a freshening for the winter before resuming serious business in spring 2023.
Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, Nothing Better is out of the Duke of Marmalade mare One True Love, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Folk Opera.
Live racing resumes Saturday at Aqueduct with a 10-race card highlighted by the $120,000 Central Park in Race 5, the Grade 3, $175,000 Fall Highweight in Race 8 and the Grade 2, $300,000 Red Smith in Race 9. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.