OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The Elkstone Group’s Wudda U Think Now secured his first career stakes win with a gate-to-wire score in Saturday’s $100,000 Hollie Hughes, a six-furlong sprint for New York-breds 4-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez with returning pilot Trevor McCarthy up, the 5-year-old Fast Anna gelding entered from a romping 10 1/2-length optional-claiming score against open company on January 16 at the Big A that garnered a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure.
Wudda U Think Now broke to the lead from the inside post in the Hollie Hughes, posting an opening quarter-mile in 23.16 seconds and the half-mile in 46.78 over the fast main track with Runningwscissors pressing from second position.
Two-time Hollie Hughes winner My Boy Tate traveled in third under Manny Franco, coming under a ride through the turn as Wudda U Think Now put away Runningwscissors and opened up a 3 1/2-length lead at the stretch call.
My Boy Tate kicked into gear in the final eighth of a mile and closed with purpose, but there was no denying Wudda U Think Now, who crossed the wire 4 1/4-lengths the best in a final time of 1:11.17.
Rodriguez, who won three races on the card and leads the Big A winter meet with 22 wins, said he was impressed with how Wudda U Think Now finished up.
“He carries himself so very well. Looks wise and body wise, he’s all there,” Rodriguez said. “I was a little concerned with the six horse [Runningwscissors] because they were running. But every time he runs, he gives an extra kick. When he drew away, I wasn’t sure how much the other horse had. We were just happy to come out in front.”
McCarthy, who also won three races on the card to move into second in the winter meet jockey standings, said he was content to again be on the lead.
“He was the speed of the race and drawn inside. Last time we put him on the lead, too. He likes to get out there and set a nice rhythm,” McCarthy said. “Turning for home, when he switches, he just opens up and he really lays it down. I give these guys a lot of credit. He’s a gorilla in the morning and he likes to be pretty aggressive training. Huge credit to the barn with him. I knew My Boy Tate would be coming, so I said I would ride him hard past the eighth pole and see where I was at. It was a good race.”
My Boy Tate completed the exacta by 5 1/4-lengths over a rallying Jemography with Runningwscissors and South Africa rounding out the order of finish. Kaz’s Beach was scratched.
Franco said the easy opening quarter-mile worked out in his rival’s favor.
“He ran his race and the way the battle was, it was against me,” Franco said. “It was easy and comfortable like [Wudda U Think Now] likes it. I just got beat by a good horse today. He gave me all he had. He always does.”
Out of the Unbridled Jet mare Unbridled Grace, Wudda U Think Now made two stakes appearances last year, finishing second in the Affirmed Success at Belmont Park and eighth in the John Morrissey at Saratoga Race Course.
Bred in the Empire State by Mina Equivest, Wudda U Think Now banked $55,000 in victory while improving his record to 14-6-4-1. Sent to post as the 3-5 mutuel favorite, he returned $3.30 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
Keith McCalmont/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Wudda U Think Now/Susie Rashier NYRA