Guided through a hole along the inside by jockey Jose Espinoza, 8-year-old Country Be Gold halted a seven-race losing streak Sunday, holding off favored Aggadan for a three-quarters of a length victory in the $110,300 Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III) at odds of 22-1. Trained by Steve Kappes for owners Barry Seinfeld and Elizabeth Dodson, the Summer Squall horse had not won since last August, when he captured the Green Dancer at Delaware Park via disqualification. The 1 1/16-mile feature for older horses was to have run Jan. 22, but was postponed when a heavy snowstorm canceled racing. The Aqueduct Handicap is the first graded stakes race in New York this year.Buried behind several horses in the stretch, Country Be Gold rallied along the inside, cutting between tiring leader New York Hero and Aggadan in deep stretch and holding on to the win in 1:44 4/5.Country Be Gold was aided by Tales of Glory, who set fast early fractions of :22 4/5, :46 3/5, and 1:11 4/5, before giving in to New York Hero, who eventually yielded to Aggadan. Country Be Gold returned $47.20, $10 and $6.50. The bay horse has now won 11 of 54 starts with career earnings of $799,424. "We were fortunate that we got a good pace," Kappes said. "They went very quick, and that set up well for us. He was very sharp today. Jose rode a great race on him. Despite his age, he is a game horse."Kappes said Country Be Gold will likely start next in the $75,000 Stymie Handicap on March 5 at nine furlongs.
Aggadan, who carried top weight of 123 pounds and spotted 11 pounds to Country Be Gold while contesting the strong pace, held off 12-1 Mahzouz for the place by a neck. "I tried to get him back off the pace, but he was very headstrong," said Aggadan's jockey Rafael Bejarano. "At the three-eighths, I tried to come around and he finished good. The other horse came inside and got us."Aggadan, the 6-5 choice in the field of eight, returned $3.30 and $2.90. Mahzouz paid $5.50 to show.Region of Merit was fourth, followed by New York Hero, Lord Langfuhr, Rogue Agent, and Tales of Glory. (Chart, Equibase)