Patricia A. Generazio's Don Six sped to the front then held off his late challengers to win Sunday's $109,400 Gravesend Handicap (gr. III) – the last graded stakes in New York for 2004 – by 1 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct.
Making his first start for trainer Scott Lake and under new jockey Mike Luzzi, the 4-year-old son of Wild Escapade simply left 4-5 favorite Gators N Bears behind in mid-stretch. He held off Mr. Whitestone and Papua down the lane to win in a six-furlong time of 1:08 4/5 on a fast track.
With Gators N Bears and rider Javier Castellano pressing from the outside, Don Six got the first quarter mile in :22 4/5 and the half in :45.
Don Six continued on as Gators N Bears, carrying high weight of 121 pounds, faded to fourth. But challenges came from Mr. Whitestone and Papua. Don Six, two pounds overweight at 116, kept rolling, however, to the eighth victory of his 23-race career. The winning share, $65,640, increased his earnings to $412,183.
The winner was helped considerably by the scratches of speedsters Ameri Brilliance and Uncle Cami, leaving Luzzi's mount as the lone speed horse.
"He made the lead nice," Luzzi said. "I've never ridden him before, but in the paddock he looked grand. Scott sent orders to put him on the lead. I broke with the hold and had hold of him the whole time. When the other horses came up to him, he ran on again. "
It was the second consecutive year that Luzzi teamed with Lake to win the Gravesend. Last year, they won it with Shake You Down.
Don Six returned $12, $6.90 and $4.60 as the third choice. Mr. Whitestone, with Julian Pimentel aboard, was second, returning $4.40, $3.40. They were a half-length in front of Papua ($3.90) and rider Shaun Bridgmohan.
Gators N Bears, Black Silk, and Eavesdropper trailed.
"You have to stay after him because he can get lazy and looks around," said Castellano of Gators N Bears. "I was happy where I was at, and I thought he was going to run big off the turn. But by the three-eighths pole, I had no horse. He stayed at the same pace."