West Point Thoroughbreds' Empire Dreams benefited from an outside post and clear trip July 12 to take the $161,000 New York Derby at Finger Lakes, while an incident at the start impacted more than half the field.
Fox Rox, technical runner-up before a disqualification, broke severely outward from post 1 in the 1 1/16-mile 3-year-old test and impeded the horses to his outside, Eye Luv Lulu and Free Mugatu. Even the fourth horse out, Lady's Smart Alec, was slightly bothered leaving the gate. But odds-on Empire Dreams, clear in the 6 hole, was able to break well and secured a good position tracking fourth as the inside horses recovered and set on their way.
Lady's Smart Alec got clear from the jumble and struck out for the early lead, clocking a quarter in :24.41 while opening about a 1 1/4-length advantage. The half went in :48.25 with Fox Rox moving up to press the pace, and those two opened about a five-length lead over the rest of the field.
Jockey Manuel Franco sent Empire Dreams on his way as the front two clocked three-quarters in 1:12.62, and the Patriot Act runner responded with a good outside move to range up as the field turned for home.
Fox Rox had taken over the lead and dug in with determination, momentarily appearing as if he would fend off Empire Dreams' closing roll. But the eventual winner, making his first try at the distance, found another gear right at the mile marker, spurting away after hitting that post in 1:38.70 en route to a 2 1/4-length win. Final time on a fast track was 1:45.55.
A stewards' inquiry and claim of foul lodged by Mike Luzzi, the rider of Eye Luv Lulu, against Pedro Rodriguez, the rider of Fox Rox, was allowed. Fox Rox was disqualified to fifth for interference while Eye Luv Lulu moved up following a technical third.
Empire Dreams, favored at 1-2, paid $3, $2.40, and $2.10 while Eye Luv Lulu brought $3.60 and $3.20. Let's Discuss paid $7.20, while Free Mugatu and Lady's Smart Alec completed the order of finish. Effinex scratched.
Empire Dreams, bred in New York by Pegasus Dream Stable out of the Thunder Gulch mare Ascended Dreams, was a $35,000 purchase by West Point from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2013 spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.
The bay colt came off a runner-up finish in the seven-furlong Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont Park June 1 after missing the 6 1/2-furlong Times Square Stakes division of the New York Stallion Series at Aqueduct Racetrack in April by 1 1/4 lengths.
Late in his 2-year-old season, he added to his six-furlong maiden score with a 1 3/4-length victory in the Great White Way, another New York Stallion Series event also run at six furlongs. His current career record stands at 3-4-1 from nine starts, with earnings of $320,500.
Later on the card, Flipcup took the $75,000 New York Oaks for 3-year-old fillies when she prevailed by a neck after a long duel with Alwaysinstilettos. The Milwaukee Brew filly, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for Team Penney Racing, Wachtel Stable, and Brous Stable, completed 1 1/16 miles under jockey John Davila Jr. in 1:46.55. She returned $4.30, $2.70, and $2.10 as the favorite in seven-horse field, improving her record to 4-1-3 from eight starts for earnings of $214,209.