by Karen Johnson
Grand Champion emerged the head winner of a three-way blanket finish in the $109,200 Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 22.
Joey P. secured the runner-up spot, a neck in front of City Attraction, who closed strongly to finish third.
Grand Champion, the 2-1 favorite, was ridden by Eibar Coa in the six-furlong race. The winner carried 130 pounds.
Bishop Court Hill surged to the early lead in the Fall Highweight, and was pressed by Debussy through an opening quarter-mile run in 21.92. Debussy assumed the heading into the far turn, while Grand Champion and Joey P. were mounting their rallies, after a half-mile completed in 45.12.
Debussy held the lead turning for home, but Grand Champion and Joey P. were in high gear. Inside the furlong pole, Joey P. poked his head in front, but Grand Champion, who was racing on the inside, battled back bravely.
“At the eighth-pole, I never thought he would come back,” Coa said. “But he kept trying. I saw (Joey P.) wasn’t getting away from me, so I kept pushing and pushing. (Grand Champion) finally came back and got it..”
Grand Champion, a 4-year-old gelded son of Two Punch, completed the distance in 1:09.90 over a good track. The winner returned $6.40. The exacta paid $48.20; the trifecta $143.
Jimmy Jerkens trains Grand Champion for Susan and John Moore. he was bred in Maryland by Thomas Bowman and Jason Layfield.
"I loved the way he came back on,” Jerkens said. “He broke with the field, and that helps a lot. He was able to sit where he was without having to make a big run. I knew he was going to be tough after that. He is out of a Wise Times mare, so there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to stretch out a bit. We’re taking him to Florida for the winter.”
The Fall Highweight was Grand Champion’s second consecutive stakes win. In his prior start, he won the restricted Maryland Million Sprint at Laurel Park Oct. 13.
From 10 career starts, Grand Champion has a record of 5-1-4, and earnings of $279,240.
Grand Champion didn’t make it to the races until this year. Jerkens said the late start was due to the surgical removal of chips from each of the gelding’s ankles.