Deprived a victory last time out when she caused interference, Sheila Sherry's Pentatonic stayed far back and out of everyone's way Saturday afternoon in the grade III, $110,500 Affectionately Handicap at Aqueduct. As a result, jockey Aaron Gryder had all the room he needed to send the 6-year-old Cure The Blues mare on a six-wide rally through the lane produced a victory. It was a nice way to start the New Year, as Pentatonic ended 2000 by winning the Ladies Handicap on Dec. 16, only to be disqualified and placed second as she bore in on Strolling Belle. "We wanted to prove ourselves today," winning trainer Richard Schosberg said. "Cutting back to a mile and a sixteenth (from a mile and a quarter) was a question, but there was a lot of pace in there. She has such a good turn of foot when you ask her, it doesn't matter what distance she runs."It was sweet revenge (for the DQ in the Ladies Handicap. The reason I was so sour was because a win would have locked up a New York divisional championship. Now, it looks like it's going to be neck and neck with Biogio's Rose. Aaron (Gryder) kept her in the middle of the track today. He was ready if she came in. We fitted her with a different bit, so if she did try to lug in, the rider would have a better shot to control her. She'll run next in the Rare Treat and the Next Move."
Don't Pinch Me, a 55-1 longshot, vied early with Perlinda, then went out on her own to run the first quarter mile of the Affectionately in :22 4/5. She stayed through a half mile of :46 3/5, but started to melt as six furlongs came in 1:11. Pompeii, stalking from third, took advantage of the tired pacesetters to take the lead, but Pentatonic had clear sailing through the middle of the lane and came home the winner, as Strolling Belle got up for second."I knew they were moving right along," Gryder said, "and I figured that would play to our advantage. Rich (Schosberg) told me she places herself in a spot, and I got her to relax. At the five-eighths pole, she jumped into the bridle. She had a big turn of foot when I asked her. I wanted to keep her wide in the stretch because she was the best horse and she deserved to win." Pentatonic returned $6.50 for the eighth win of her 24-race career. The victory moved her well over the half-million mark in lifetime earnings. Bred by Dr. Herb Sherry, Pentatonic has now bankrolled $549,757. Strolling Belle necked Pompei for the place. Back In Shape was fourth, followed by Biogio's Rose, Don't Pinch Me, Perlinda and Gold Streamer.(Chart, Equibase)