Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. benefited from the spirit of the season when Stronach Stables' Thunder Blitz, conditioned by Bobby Frankel but stabled at Aqueduct for the inner track season, pulled a mild upset in the $108,300 Queens County Handicap (gr. III) Saturday.
Thunder Blitz and Jorge Chavez wore down frontrunner Unforgettable Max in midstretch and pulled away to victory by two lengths in 1:55 4/5 for the 1 3/16-mile distance.
"I talk to Bobby (Frankel) every couple of days and I follow his instructions," said Dutrow, who has the horse in his care for now. "It wasn't anything that I did. The Stronachs and Bobby left him here with me hoping he'd like the inner track and he obviously does."
Unforgettable Max went to the lead from the starting gate and set fractions of :24 2/5, :49 and 1:13 2/5. Thunder Blitz took over at the eighth pole and drew off down the lane. Evening Attire, the multiple stakes winner, finished second as the even-money favorite under Shaun Bridgmohan. Seattle Fitz (ARG) and Richard Migliore were third.
Thunder Blitz has been in the care of trainer Bobby Frankel for most of the year. He was moved into trainer Dutrow's shed prior to the inner track meeting and tuned up for Saturday's effort with a second-place showing – beaten by a neck – in the Stuyvesant (gr. III) at Aqueduct Nov. 11.
Thunder Blitz, a 5-year-old, added a fourth victory to his resume with his second win of the year from eight starts. He snapped a five-race losing streak. The gray Irish home bred horse by Holy Bull earned $64,980. He is 4-6-6 from 23 career starts with earnings of $462,450.
"I was expecting the pace to be a little faster, but it wasn't, but that was okay," Chavez said. "I had plenty of horse through the stretch."
Evening Attire carried a high weight of 123 in the race, nine pounds more than winner Thunder Blitz.
Said Evening Attire's rider Bridgmohan: "He tried hard the whole way. The pace was slow and he was giving everybody weight. He dug in, but just couldn't get up."
Dutrow indicated that Thunder Blitz would most likely run next in the $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III) on Jan. 17.
The Queens County Handicap, which attracted six older horses, was originally scheduled for Dec. 6. It was postponed when a snowstorm cancelled three days of racing.
Thunder Blitz paid $11.80, $3.80 and $2.80. Evening Attire returned $2.70 and $2.20. Seattle Fitz showed for $3. The $2 exacta was worth $28.60.
)The Garland of Roses
Longshot Balmy, under Stewart Elliott, took the lead at the top of the stretch and held off a late charge by Gazillion to win the $82,950 Garland of Roses on Saturday.
Balmy paid $53.50 to win the 6-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares. Balmy pressed the early pace of Bruanna (:23 3/5), then took the lead around the turn (:47) and pulled away to win the race in 1:11 1/5 over the fast Inner Track.
"She was sitting on a big race, although I wasn't sure if we could beat a few of those. Gazillion and Wilzada are monsters," said winning trainer John Servis.
Balmy - a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred dark bay filly by Salt Lake, earned $49,770 for Fox Hill Farm. She improved her career record to 6-1-3 from 16 starts with earnings of $189,680.
Charles Lopez was kicked in the right forearm by his mount Sounds Fishy in the paddock prior to the sixth race. He was taken to North Shore Hospital for precautionary X-rays.
Apprentice jockey Michael Baze is schedule to undergo surgery on Sunday after he broke his nose and cheekbone in a spill in the fifth race on Friday. Baze was thrown when Rocket Star stumbled on the far turn and he was subsequently struck by Indian Run, a trailing horse. Aaron Gryder, the rider of Indian Run, was uninjured. Neither horse appeared to be injured.