Snow Ridge came into Saturday's Carter Handicap (gr. I) having won three straight graded stakes at Santa Anita, but the D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Tabasco Cat ran back to his form shown in Aqueduct's Gravesend Handicap (gr. III) in December, finishing ninth of 10 as the favorite in the seven-furlong Aqueduct co-feature.
Aqueduct regular Affirmed Success has no problems with the track, though, earning his second career grade I win over the surface in notching the one-length win over 41-1 longshot Voodoo, with Burning Roma three-quarters of a length back in third. Say Florida Sandy, Dream Run, Rusty Spur, Here's Zealous, Peeping Tom, Snow Ridge, and Shibboleth completed the order of finish.
"He's never looked better in his life," said winning trainer Richard Schosberg of the 8-year-old gelding. "He's eight and he's always loved running."
As for the beaten favorite, Lukas said: "He didn't handle the track at all. He broke on top, but Mike (Smith) said he had little horse after that."
Smith agreed Snow Ridge disagreed with the track surface.
"He likes the hard tracks like Santa Anita and Turfway," the rider explained. "We broke well, but after that it felt like we were running uphill. He likes to hear his hooves rattle."
Snow Ridge, along with Rusty Spur and Here's Zealous, was part of an early speed duel which witnessed fast fractions of :21.91 and :43.46. Affirmed Success raced in fourth early on under Richard Migliore, with Voodoo farther back in eighth.
"I knew there was going to be a lot of speed in this race, so I wanted to ride him smartly," said Voodoo's rider, Javier Castellano.
Migliore let Affirmed Success roll approaching the stretch and the son of Affirmed responded en route to the win.
"He broke good and things opened up where I could shift down to the rail. They were moving pretty fast, but my horse was in the bridle tracking them," Migliore said. "As we got closer to the stretch, I saw that Snow Ridge was drifting out a bit and I decided to commit. I had the horse to do it. He really accelerated off the turn. He's an amazing horse."
Albert Fried homebred Affirmed Success earned $210,000 for winning the $350,000 race, completing its seven furlongs in 1:21.84 on a fast track. The victory marks his 15th in 36 races and his third grade I win. Affirmed Success finished second in the 1999 Carter and third in the 2000 renewal.
Sent off at nearly 5-1, Affirmed Success awarded his backers with a winning mutuel of $11.40. The exacta paid $254. (Chart, Equibase