Stronach Stables' Thunder Touch survived a claim of foul to win the $111,600 Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) in his stakes debut Sunday at Aqueduct.
The 3-year old son of Gulch
toted a career high 126 pounds while getting as many as eight pounds from his eight rivals.
"Being that he is a 3-year old and just won a 'two other-than,' we kind of pointed to this with the weights in mind," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "He's a very nice horse."
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Thunder Touch won by 1 1/4 lengths over Papua in a time of 1:09 4/5 for the six furlongs on a sloppy track. Stewards disallowed a claim of foul by the rider of Papua, Javier Castellano, and made no change in the order of finish.
Papua was moving with Thunder Touch at the top of the stretch and altered course to the inside while Bejarano kept Thunder Touch outside. Papua steadied behind a tiring Uncle Camie and was forced to alter course again while Thunder Touch rolled on unabated for his fourth victory in nine lifetime starts.
Thunder Touch appeared to be climbing while chasing the first flight of horses down the backstretch. He settled in around the far turn and gained ground to put himself into contention after 24-1 Uncle Camie clicked off the opening half mile in :44./5.
"I was on the best horse. I stayed clear the whole time and was in my lane," Bejarano said after his first stakes win in New York went official.
The victory, worth $66,960, increased the chestnut colt's earnings to $164,750. He has a 4-1-1 record in eight starts.
Papua managed to hold second by a half-length with Eavesdropper rallying for third and Uncle Camie finishing fourth in the field of nine. McLaughlin also trains Eavesdropper while Michael Hushion trains both Papua and Uncle Camie, giving the pair a sweep of the top four positions.
Medallist, the 2-1 favorite, did not show his typical early speed and finished a non-inspiring fifth in his first effort over a wet track.
"He couldn't keep up," jockey Jose Santos said.
Primary Suspect, Friendly Island, Don Six and Max's Buddy trailed.
The Fall Highweight was rescheduled from Thursday after the Thanksgiving Day card was abandoned after the early double when jockeys deemed the condition of the track unsafe for racing.
In Sunday's regularly scheduled Montauk for New York-bred fillies and mares, Board Elligible rolled past South Wing in mid-stretch to uphold her 3-5 odds. Board Elligible had earlier raced in a pair of grade I events and was most recently fifth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths against state-bred males in the Empire Classic.
Also at Aqueduct Sunday, Cornelio Velasquez won his 22nd race of the meet to finish tied with Edgar Prado as the leading jockey during the five-week fall session at Aqueduct. It was Velasquez' first riding title in New York. Richard Dutrow Jr easily won the trainer title with 19 wins, more than double that of his closest rivals.
The winter meet begins with Wednesday's opening of the inner dirt track.