Michael Dubb’s Pete’s Play Call started his 8-year-old campaign the same way he concluded 2020, saving his best for the stretch in registering a victory in Saturday’s 62nd running of the $100,000 Gravesend for 4-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Pete’s Play Call outkicked Stan the Man by 2 1/2 lengths to win his first start since being claimed for $62,500 out of a win on November 27 at the Big A. Now trained by Rudy Rodriguez, the gelded son of Munnings was forwardly placed in second position behind Happy Farm, who led the five-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.09 seconds on the muddy and sealed main track.
Under jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr., Pete’s Play Call overtook Happy Farm, with the half-clocked in 46.99, and held the advantage out of the turn, taking position near the center of the track. Stan the Man, the runner-up of the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap last out on November 29 on the same track, made a late bid under rider Eric Cancel. But Pete’s Play Call pressed to the wire, completing 6 ½ furlongs in a final time of 1:17.63.
“Rudy told me he was going to run big today and he did. All credit to him, he had him ready off the claim,” said Vargas, Jr., who won two races on the card. “I was pretty happy where I was and when I asked him, he took off. He’s quick. I was just trying to keep him happy and where he was comfortable.”
Off at 4-1, Pete’s Play Call [bred in Maryland by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGinnes] returned $10.20 on a $2 win bet. He improved his career earnings to $648,421. It was his first stakes win since the Bonapaw in December 2019 at Fair Grounds.
“He was training very good. He’s a hard-knocking horse,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been doing very well since we claimed him. I thought we paid top dollar for him, but seeing him working in the morning, it looked like he was worth every penny.”
Stan the Man, owned by Long Lake Stable and trained by John Terranova, finished 3 ¼ lengths the best of Drafted for second. My Boy Tate, the 7-5 favorite, and Happy Farm completed the order of finish.
“He handled the track good,” Cancel said. “He’s a good horse and goes with everything. He doesn’t have any excuse. He just got beat by a horse that was ready to run and never gave up.
“I was comfortable with where I was and I made the move when I had to,” he added. “The horse reacted quick with it, but the horse that beat us never gave up.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at Aqueduct with a nine-race card headlined by the $100,000 La Verdad for New York-bred fillies and mares 4-year-olds and up in Race 8. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
NYRA Press Release/ Photo Credit: Chelsea Durand