James McIngvale's During avenged a disappointing Aqueduct finish earlier this year by holding off Unforgettable Max to notch a hard-fought nose victory in Wednesday's $111,800 Discovery Handicap (gr. III), the nine-furlong feature on opening day of Aqueduct's fall meet.
A distant seventh in the mud back in April's Bay Shore, During posted victories in the Swaps (gr. II) at Hollywood Park in July and in Belmont Park's Jerome Handicap (gr. II) last month since then. His Jerome victory was so impressive that Tonja Terranova, wife of trainer John Terranova, convinced trainer Bob Baffert to leave the 3-year-old son of 1994 sprint champion Cherokee Run with them in New York Tonja Terranova was a former Baffert assistant.
In spite of muddy conditions again Wednesday, the move paid off. During rated second behind longshot frontrunner Sharp Impact, who got the first quarter mile in :23 3/5 and the half in :47. When he chucked it in, During took the lead, but could not shake Unforgettable Max and jockey Javier Castellano.
Unforgettable Max, in fact forged to the lead inside the eighth pole, but During, on the inside, never quit in a stretchlong battle and jockey Jose Santos got all the colt had to offer. Their combined efforts resulted in a nose victory in 1:51 on the muddy track.
"We got a little bit nervous when we heard it was going to rain because he had run bad here in the Bay Shore," Tonja Terranova said after During won at odds of 5-1. "He trained well over an off-track at Belmont, and we really had a lot of confidence in him. We're very happy that Bob and Mr. McIngvale decided to leave this horse in New York. Bob said he might leave him here and go to the Clark Handicap (gr. II at Churchill Downs. Nov. 28) with him next. He was really game. He fought hard and Jose (Santos) rode him beautifully. It was very exciting."
Santos was more surprised by the outcome.
"I thought I ran out of horse at the quarter pole," Santos said. "I hit him left-handed and he just kept giving me more. I said, `Man, I still have a chance to win this.' He ran hard and was on the pace all the way. What a good fighter!"
Inamorato was third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Unforgettable Max, and favored Congrats was fourth, six lengths behind the winner.
"Speed is holding," said Shug McGaughey, trainer of Congrats. "We just ran even. The two times we ran on a muddy track, he hasn't run quite as good. He trains hard in it, but he couldn't kick on in it today. I'm going to give him an excuse for this one."
During earned $67,080 while paying $12.40, $7.50 and $4.40. Unforgettable Max returned $10 and $6.70. Inamorato, ridden by Jorge Chavez, showed for $7.10. The $2 exacta was worth $122.50.
Newfoundland, Conservation, Colita and Sharp Impact trailed. Chilly Rooster, New York Hero and Private City were scratched.