By Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Bruce Levine is as crafty as they come when making claims, and that prowess was demonstrated again with Temporary Saint, winner of the $150,533 Excelsior Handicap (gr.III) at Aqueduct April 5.
Temporary Saint, claimed by owner Maggi Moss and Levine in October 2007 for $50,000 at Keeneland, set the pace to win the 1 1/8-mile Excelsior by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Nite Light, who was reluctant to load into the starting gate. It was another neck back to Angliana in third.
Magna Graduate, Naughty New Yorker, Wafi City, Malibu Moonshine, and Evening Attire completed the order of finish.
Ridden by Chuck Lopez, Temporary Saint stole away to an uncontested early lead and set fractions of :23.92, :48.43, 1:13.65, and 1:38.13. The final time on a fast track was 1:51.13. At the top of the stretch, Nite Light and Wafi City loomed as threats but Temporary Saint just kept rolling.
The win was the first in a stakes for Temporary Saint, a 5-year-old gelding by Awesome Again —No Foul Play, by Great Gladiator, bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs.
Temporary Saint returned $24.20, $8.60, and $7.70. The exacta with 5-2 favorite Nite Light returned $123.
Lopez rode Temporary Saint with confidence from start to finish. The rider, known for his speedy ways out of the gate, only gave the gelding one tap in the stretch to keep his mind on his business because of Temporary Saint’s resentment of the whip.
“I thought he was going to run good because he ran so well last time,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I rode the best of races on him last time. He’s a good horse, and I knew if I was allowed to get away the way I did, he would be tough to get by. He doesn’t really want to be hit. I hit him left-handed one time and he resented it. As soon as I went back to hand-riding him, he just took off again.”
Temporary Saint, who finished second in the ungraded Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct March 1, has won two of three starts for Moss and Levine since the claim.
“I had a lot of confidence in this horse,” Levine said. “I wanted to run him in this race. I knew he was going to get to the lead because there was no speed in the race. I knew Wafi City was going to sit behind him. I knew the fractions were slow, but the track has been slow all day. This was a big race for him.”
The Excelsior win boosted Temporary Saint’s earnings to $287,239. His record stands at 6-4-4 from 23 starts.