Michael Tabor's Left Bank led throughout Wedenesday's $103,499 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) to easily win the 1 1/8 mile race for 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths over Perfect Cat on opening day at Aqueduct.
Left Bank (French Deputy--Marshesseaux, by Dr. Blum) led by a length over Open Sesame after an opening half-mile run in :46.84 over a fast track. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt drew away from that point under jockey John Velazquez, completing the distance in 1:47.30, just over Riva Ridge's track record of 1:47 set in 1973.
"He doesn't need the lead, but he is more focused when he is on it," said Velazquez. "Physically, he has grown since he was a 2-year-old, but mentally, he is still immature. He likes to look around when horses are next to him, and if we can stop that, he's got the potential to be a star."
The win was the first in a stakes race for the colt, bred in Kentucky by John Youngblood and Fletcher Gray. He earned $64,020 for the win, his seventh in 11 starts.
Pletcher has now won two of the last three renewals of the Discovery, having also saddled 1998 Discovery winner Early Warning. Left Bank's win also marks the second consecutive Discovery win for Velazquez, who rode Adonis to a 1 1/4 length win in last year's renewal.
"We were a little concerned with shipping him over and going two turns," said Pletcher. "John (Velazquez) said he was a little green going into the first turn, but again he's only gone two turns once in his career and that was a long time ago. This was a different experience for him. If all goes well, we would like to point him for the Cigar Mile (gr. I, Aqueduct, Nov. 25).
Sent off as the 3-10 favorite, Left Bank returned $2.60 and $2.20. Perfect Cat paid $4.10 to place and completed an $11.80 exacta. There was no show wagering in the scratch shortened four-horse field. Open Sesame came home third, a head behind Perfect Cat, with second wagering choice Quiet Mike another four lengths back. (Chart, Equibase