Nearly eight lengths back of the leader when swung wide at the top of the lane, and still well back approaching the sixteenth-pole, Ah Day began picking off rivals from the middle of the race track under Sheldon Russell. The 6-year-old Malibu Moon gelding kept charging until drawing on even terms with Eternal Star in the final yards. He stretched his head in front just before the wire to grab his first graded stakes victory.
The final time for six furlongs on the fast inner track was 1:10.28. Ah Day was sent off at 7-1. Leatherbury, who also trains the winner, now has 6,267 career victories, third on the all-time list.
Eternal Star was a tough luck runner-up under Julien Pimentel, three-quarters of a length in front of 44-1 Saint Daimon in the tightly-contested sprint that saw eight of the nine horses with a chance to win in the final furlong.
Ah Day took advantage of a hot pace set by West Coast Flier, who clicked off splits of :22.11 and :44.77 before Saint Daimon took a short lead entering the lane.
“Coming off the layoff, he was a tad slow coming out of the gate, and King’s orders were not to rush him,” said Russell after collecting his first stakes win. “There was a lot of speed in the race. He took himself back from being slow out of the gate, and I pretty much just sat on him, sat on him, and saved as much ground as I could. I just angled him out and he came running.
“The horse was very ready and worked very well at Laurel. I am very grateful to King giving me the chance.”
Ah Day had been shelved by Leatherbury since finishing sixth in the Teddy Drone Stakes Aug. 3 at Monmouth Park. His only other start in 2008 was a victory in the Fire Plug Stakes in January at Laurel Park – a race that he also won the year before. The Maryland-bred bay was graded stakes-placed three times in 2007, including a third-place finish in the grade I Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.
Ah Day, who is out of the Thirty Eight Paces mare Endette, has produced an 11-6-2 record from 24 starts and earnings of $764,574.
“He ran awesome,” said Avon Thorpe, assistant to Leatherbury. “He’s been training good. He came back slowly and took his time. Then, he just did what he normally does – ran big. I have no idea what’s next.”
Ah Day paid $16.80, $7.80 and $5.30. The exacta (9-2) returned $88.50, while the trifecta (9-2-7) was worth $2,100.