Both Sportswriter and Sunny Desert were sent off the prohibitive favorites in their respective divisions of the New York Stallion Series Stakes (NYSS) on Wednesday at Aqueduct, and each one fulfilled their backers' faith with wins.
Sunny Desert was up first in the $98,000 Staten Island division and overcame a troubled start to score by 2 3/4 lengths. The sophomore daughter of Wild Desert was bumped soundly when the gates opened as her opponents on either side came into her, and then squeezed back heading into the backstretch. Jockey Ramon Dominguez allowed Sunny Desert to settle into stride before going four wide after the dueling leaders of Haldane, Mah Jong Maddnes and Jitney.
The chestnut miss responded and took over in upper stretch, easily turned back the rally of Lady on the Run and geared down in a hand ride to finish seven furlongs on the fast dirt in 1:24. As the near 2-5 choice, the Saul J. and Max Kupferberg-campaigned Sunny Desert paid $2.70, $2.10 and $2.10.
"She's shown that she's versatile," trainer John Parisella said. "You don't like (troubled starts), but nothing stops her right now. She's special. You don't have many fillies like that. They have that one style, and everything has to come up right. That's what makes her special; things don't have to come up right."
"I got squeezed between the two horses next to me and she was a little bit further back than I thought she'd be, but she was much the best," Dominguez agreed. "It's hard to say what her best distance is; I tried to get her going a little earlier, coming off a mile race. But once she gets in gear, she's all business."
Sunny Desert earned her fifth straight win in this spot, having previously broken her maiden by 15 1/5 lengths, taken the Park Avenue division of the NYSS, added an optional claimer to her record and scored in the Judy Soda Stakes most recently. The filly improved her scorecard to read 10-5-3-0 and now boasts $266,750 in career earnings.
Sportswriter followed two races later in the $100,000 Thunder Rumble division, posting a three-quarter length decision under jockey Javier Castellano.
In that contest, the Maybry's Boy gelding was forced to dig in once taking the lead to hold off the runs of Anaphylaxis, Maggie's Hadder and Game Token, but got the job done in a final time of 1:24 1/5 for seven furlongs. The next three were only separated by two necks on the wire.
"I wanted to time it just right and not move too soon. When I asked him, he responded so well. Today, it worked out perfect for him," Castellano remarked.
Sportswriter gave back $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10 as the 1-5 favorite in his 11th start of the year. The gray's last win, and first black-type victory, came in the Cab Calloway division of the NYSS, though he's also placed in four other stakes.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez for Michael Dubb and Michael Imperio, Sportswriter has racked up $283,684 in lifetime earnings to go along with his 16-5-3-1 mark.
"He's been very good since we got him, and he's always trained very, very good. We got very lucky to buy him," Rodriguez said. "He's as solid as they come and tries every time. If they go easy on the lead, he can be on the lead, or he can stay behind. This was a good race for him, and he got the job done."