Victory Thoroughbreds’ Cherokee Country came roaring down the center of the racetrack and collared Hatfield in deep stretch to win the $110,000 Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) Nov. 26 at Aqueduct (VIDEO).
It was the first graded stakes score for the 5-year-old horse, who was claimed for $12,500 way back in November, 2006. The son of Yonaguska covered six furlongs on the main track in 1:09.29 under Jose Lezcano.
Breaking from post 9, Cherokee Country was well back of the leaders for most of the way and was still more than four lengths from the leader, Hatfield, when they hit the eighth-pole. Hatfield, ridden by Gabriel Saez, dueled with Go Go Shoot through a :21.80 opening quarter and :44.31 half-mile. Those two turned for home still battling, but Hatfield put away his rival with a furlong remaining and continued to lead past the sixteenth-pole.
However, Cherokee Country, who was swung wide for his stretch run, was full of run under Lezcano. Meanwhile, Greenspring, bottled up rounding the turn, ducked inside with Jeremy Rose aboard and made a bold advance on the rail. Both passed a tiring Hatfield in the final yards, but it was Cherokee Country who hit the wire a half-length in front.
Greenspring was 1 1/4 lengths in front of 43-1 Hatfield for second.
Trained by Ramon Preciado, Cherokee Country won for the third time in his last four starts. Overall, he has hit the winner’s circle 11 times in 25 tries. The bay horse has earned $426,610 in his career.
“He had been off for nearly two years, first with a leg injury, and then a shoulder injury," said winning owner Lou Cacchio. "He came back great this year; broke the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs at Philadelphia Park (1:14.39) three starts back.
"He had a bit of bad luck in the Bold Ruler (Oct. 31). He hesitated at the start and probably lost five lengths right there. There was a lot of speed in this race and we thought it would set up for him. We’ll look next at the Gravesend (Dec. 26) here."
Bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, Cherokee Country is out of the Tri Jet mare Jetazelle.
The winner paid $26.20, $10.40, and $8.40. The exacta (9-8) returned $116 and the trifecta (9-8-4) was $3,377.