Favored Liquor Cabinet led by 12 lengths approaching the eighth pole and finished nine lengths in front while completely wrapped up by jockey Ramon Dominguez, stopping the clock in 1:43 3/5 for the 1 1/16-mile distance. The Irish-bed Hennessy horse remained unbeaten in four starts at the distance while winning for the fourth time in six starts -- with two seconds -- on the Big A's inner oval.
A powerful wind – there were gusts from 20-30 miles and hour from the northwest – restricted much chance of a rally by his rivals.
Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Liquor Cabinet returned from nearly an eight-month layoff to win an optional allowance/claiming race in his last start Nov. 29, running the fastest time for the one mile, seventy-yard distance on the inner course this season (1:39 2/5). Liquor Cabinet went to the sidelines after a fourth-place finish in the Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) on Aqueduct's main track April 1, his only previous graded stakes try.
“I’ve been really liking this horse over the last month,” said Dutrow, who was in Florida on Saturday. “Over the last few weeks, he’s changed into a different horse. To be honest, I really thought he could win like that. His feet have been bugging him a little, but he really brought his game. His next race will either be the Santa Anita Handicap or the Gulfstream Park Handicap.”
Breaking from the outside post following the scratch of Who What Win, Dominguez hustled Liquor Cabinet to the lead and they cleared the field to get an inside position on the clubhouse turn before being tackled by Silver Prospector on his outside. The two vied for the lead through fractions of :24 and :47 1/5 before Liquor Cabinet began to edge away. Mayan King emerged from the pack and appeared to be ready to offer a challenge but Liquor Cabinet widened his advantage to seven lengths after completing six furlongs in 1:11 3/5. The winner continued to expand his advantage leaving the far turn.
“Rick thought it would set up to where we might be stalking,” said Dominguez, Aqueduct’s leading rider who won five races here on Friday afternoon. “When we came out of there, my horse broke extremely sharp. (Silver Prospector) stumbled pretty good. My horse just took me (to the lead). At all times, he was relaxed. Turning for home, I had no idea how far in front I was. When I took a peek back, I was like, `Wow!’”
There was a general stewards’ inquiry involving the stretch run, but no action was taken. Angliana, ridden by Jose Santos, rallied for second by a neck over Naughty New Yorker, who also closed mildly for third under Jean-Luc Samyn.
Liquor Cabinet, who is out of the Jade Hunter mare Key Hunter, improved his career record to 5-5-0 in 12 starts while banking $234,968. He earned $65,880 Saturday.
Carrying 116 pounds, he paid $4.40, $2.90 and $2.20. Angliana, coming off a second-pace finish in Aqueduct's Gallant Fox Handicap for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, returned $5.90 and $3.40. Naughty New Yorker, who carried high weight of 118 pounds, was $2.90 to show. Shuffling Maddness, Mayan King, New York Hero and Silver Prospector followed.