Former hurdler Dreadnaught won an all-out stretch duel with Certifiably Crazy for his first graded stakes victory in the $150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 3/8 miles on the Aqueduct turf Saturday.
The 4-year-old Lac Ouimet
gelding ejected jockey Jean-Luc Samyn after rearing in the gate prior to start and had to be re-loaded for the 1 3/8-mile Red Smith after it was determined that the jockey and horse weren't hurt.
None of that proved a hindrance to Dreadnaught, who stalked patiently in mid-pack while racing without blinkers for the first time since his three-race hurdle career earlier this year. Dreadnaught hit stride coming off the far turn and quickly surged to even terms with Certifiably Crazy and jockey Pablo Fragoso inside the eighth pole. The two fought to the wire in tandem with Dreadnaught prevailing by a nose.
"The horse was very professional to overcome that," Samyn said. "The turf was soft and not a lot of horses can handle that. My horse handled it and really dug in through the stretch."
It was three lengths back to third-place finisher Alost, a French horse making his first start in the United States with Tony Farina aboard. The winning time on good going was 2:18 4/5.
Certifiably Crazy, closely tracked by Navesink River and Irish Colonial, set an easy pace of :26, :51 4/5, 1:17 4/5 and 1:43 1/5. Irish Colonial held on for fourth.
Trained by Thomas Voss, Dreadnaught was a neck shy of Macaw in the John Henry at Meadlowlands going 11 furlongs in his last start Oct. 29. In the race prior to that, he won a Belmont allowance race at the same distance.
Voss took the blinkers off for the first time in six races.
"I took the blinkers off because the last couple times he ran he got to the lead and kind of stopped," Voss said. "He was fine today. He eyeballed that horse all the way. If he had the blinkers on he might have got caught loafing."
Overall, Dreadnaught improved 4-4-0 in 14 career starts, including a pair of runner-up finishes in maiden hurdle events this summer. He nearly doubled his career earnings for owner Trillium Stable to $185,523.
According to Voss, the steeplechase races helped Dreadnaught to hone his racing skills.
"Jumping him in the spring has really helped him develop into a better athlete," Voss said. "He was sort of a big dumb, unathletic horse. It was sort of like taking dancing lessons. The jumps got him coordinated. He is an improving horse. We are looking forward to next year."
Dreadnaught, who is out of the Sovereign Dancer mare Wings of Dreams, was purchased for $15,500 at Keeneland in November 2000. David S. Pennington bred him in Kentucky.
He paid $13.20, $6.70 and $4.40. Certifiably Crazy returned $9.60 and $7.10 while completing an exacta of $84.50. Alost's show was $10.60.
The delayed start may have hurt 5-2 favorite Evening Attire, who walked out of the gate and trailed the field through the first half of the race.
"I think he broke slowly because of the delay," said Evening Attire's jockey Jose Espinoza. "He was in the gate for a long time. He was left with too much to do after the start. He was far back. He did make a little move in the stretch."
Navesink River finished fifth, followed by Dr. Brendler, Second Performance, Evening Attire, Rochester and Quiet Ruler.
European rider Jamie Spencer, who was kicked in the stomach by his fourth-race mount Bandini, was taken to North Shore Hospital. X-ray results were not immediately available.
Earlier on the racecard, Storm Minstrel, under Pablo Fragoso, beat Then She Laughs by a nose to win the Safely Kept Overnight Stakes. The 3-year-old Distorted Humor
filly won the 6-furlong race in 1:11. She paid $11.80 to win.