Using a strong move in the upper stretch to escape the rail, New Farm's New Jersey homebred Wild Gams handed favored Celestial Legend her first loss in seven starts in the $110,600-added Cicada (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies on the Aqueduct inner dirt track Saturday.
With leading Aqueduct rider Eibar Coa in the irons, Wild Gams, a bay filly by Forest Wildcat
-Diamonds and Legs (Quiet American
), drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths under 118 pounds in her graded stakes debut while completing the six furlongs in 1:09 3/5.
Trained by Ben Perkins Jr., Wild Gams won her third straight race, all on the inner Aqueduct course. She was coming off a 2 3/4-length win in the Oxford Scholar Jan. 29. Saturday's victory was worth $66,360, pushing her earnings to $171,079.
"I said to Eibar, `Whatever you do, don't come off the fence,'" Perkins said. "I thought he had a good hold on her. When she started moving up, I knew she had a good kick. It looked like maybe we could stretch her out another notch or two. There are some nice races here, so I'm not sure we'll have to ship around."
Maryland shipper Celestial Legend, carrying top weight of 122 pounds with Erick Rodriguez aboard, flew out of the gate to grab the early lead while clicking off an opening quarter mile of :22 3/5 and the half in :45 4/5. Oprah Winney, ridden by Edgar Prado, and Wild Gams on the inside, tracked the leader into the drive. Prado and Oprah Winney had Wild Gams pinned on the rail, but they could not go with the winner, who split horses and swept past Celestial Legend near the eighth pole on her way to an easy victory.
"She actually did better today than her previous two victories," Coa said. "Today, she ran against better horses and she proved she has been improving. Today, I was very happy with the way she ran. The last two times, she was in better position than she was today because today she was stuck inside and I had to wait. But when I pointed her, she just responded and that was good."
As the second choice in a field of seven, Wild Gams paid $7.40, $3.30, and $2.60 for her fourth win in seven lifetime starts, topping a $19.60 exacta.
Celestial Legend was a clear runner-up by 2 1/2 lengths, returning $3.20 and $2.50 in her first graded stakes race.
"She ran great; we just got out-run," said Dale Capuano, trainer of Celestial Legend. "She ran as good as she can run. She's pretty quick, so when she broke well, I knew she would be in front."
Oprah Winney was $3.50 to show.
Swap Fliparoo, Vasa, Spenny, and Renew followed. Ring True scratched.