Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati finished a nose behind Stronach Stables’ Harlem Rocker when the horses hit the wire in the Nov. 29 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Aqueduct, but was placed first after stewards disqualified Harlem Rocker for interference in the stretch.
Trained by Barclay Tagg and ridden by Edgar Prado, Tale of Ekati raced well off the pace as California invader Monterrey Jazz set quick fractions of :22.87 for the first quarter-mile, :45.31 for a half-mile, and 1:09.42 for six furlongs on a fast track. As the field began to bunch up at the top of the lane, Harlem Rocker, ridden by Eibar Coa for trainer Todd Pletcher, got the jump and opened up daylight on the other closers.
As Tale of Ekati was coming up the rail, Harlem Rocker drifted in. Prado steered Tale of Ekati outside, and the colt made up a couple of lengths but fell a nose short at the wire. Bribon and Arson Squad rallied from far back to take third and fourth, respectively, only a length behind the top pair.
The stewards ruled Harlem Rocker interfered with Tale of Ekati and placed him second. Tale of Ekati paid $19.80 to win. The time for the mile was 1:35.01.
“The longer the inquiry goes, they usually don’t change it,” Tagg said. “I could see it happening; (Harlem Rocker) took the lane away from us. Sometimes it happens for me, sometimes it happens for them.”
“(Tale of Ekati) didn’t appear to really check, and he had every opportunity to go by our horse,” Pletcher said. “And, in my opinion, he was never going by. It’s a tough call in a grade 1. I’ll talk to (owner Frank Stronach) and see if he wants to appeal the ruling.”
Wanderin Boy, a 7-year-old Seeking the Gold horse who had a record of 9-6-3 from 24 career starts and earnings in excess of $1.2 million entering the Cigar MIle, fractured the sesamoids in his left-front leg and was euthanized. The horse, owned by Stone Farm and trained by Nick Zito, was pulled up by jockey John Velazquez as the field turned for home.
By Tale of the Cat out of the Sunday Silence mare Silence Beauty, Tale of Ekati won for the fifth time in 12 starts. The 3-year-old colt now has two grade I wins, the first having come in the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct in April. In his last start, Tale of Ekati won the grade II Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park, where he has been training.
“The (nine-furlong) Wood Memorial came up perfect for him, but I’ve said all along that this horse is a miler,” Tagg said. “But when you have a 3-year-old with the Kentucky Derby, you have to try different things with them. They are only 3 years old once. He didn’t shame himself in the Kentucky Derby (in which he finished fourth). It’s nice to start the year with a grade 1 at Aqueduct and end it here with a grade 1.”
Harlem Rocker, by Macho Uno, finished third in the Jerome and earlier this year won the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct.