Sunrise Smarty took all the heat up front and still had just enough to hang on for a half-length win in the $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) on Thanksgiving at Aqueduct.
It was the first graded stakes score for the 4-year-old son of Smarty Jones
. He is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Donald Brooks, and Nick Cammarano. Michael Hushion trains the bay colt.
Sunrise Smarty, the second choice in a field of five carrying 130 pounds, covered six furlongs on the good dirt in 1:09.97 under Ramon Dominguez.
He was bred in Kentucky by Dennis Drazin and is out of the Seattle Slew mare Sunrise Slew. He was sold for $100,000 at the OBS selected sale of 2-year-olds in training.
The complexion of Fall Highweight was changed when five horses were early scratches. Included amongst them was the Todd Pletcher entry of Calibrachoa
, Caixa Eletronica
, and Driven by Success
, which was the morning-line favorite. That left Sunrise Smarty as the best of the early speed and he outfought Escrow Kid
and General Maximus
through a hot opening quarter-mile of :21.51.
Sunrise Smarty’s task got easier midway on the turn when favored General Maximus took a bad step and had to be pulled up by Corey Nakatani. By the time Sunrise Smarty hit the quarter-pole he had run a half-mile in a torrid :44.31 and had a sizeable lead.
He was still in command at the top of the stretch but the quick pace had taken its toll on him. He only led by 1 1/2 lengths at the eighth-pole and it seemed that Flat Bold
and Nathan's H Q
, both coming from off the pace, were poised to pass him in the final furlong. But Sunrise Smarty hung tough all the way and had just enough to hold off Nathan’s H Q for his biggest career win.
Nathan’s H Q, the highweight at 131 pounds, and Rajiv Maragh were 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Flat Bold. Escrow Kid checked in fourth.
“Being on the inside, I was committed to go the lead," said Dominguez, who celebrated his 35th birthday with five winners on the card. "After a few strides, I wasn’t too happy with the pace scenario we were facing. I let him open up a length or two, and, despite how fast we were going, he was able to relax. At the eighth pole, it looked like they were going to pass him, but he kept on finding.”
Sunrise Smarty won for the third time in seven starts this season. His other two wins came in allowance and optional claiming company in New York. Most recently he was sixth in the Oct. 22 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.
With the victory, Sunrise Smarty improved to 4-3-1 from 12 starts and increased his earnings to $191,961.
“He’s a real soldier. He shows up," Hushion said. "The inside post didn’t give us any choice but to send him today. I was worried after that first quarter-mile, which was a bit salty, and again at the eighth pole, when it looked like they had him in their sights and were going to run him down. But he’s a tough horse.
"He’ll race here over the winter, but I don’t have anything in particular picked out.”
He paid $6.90, $3.10, and $3. The exacta (4-8) returned $26 and the trifecta (4-8-5) was worth $65.