Bishop Court Hill wins the Gravesend Handicap.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Bishop Court Hill wins the Gravesend Handicap.
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Coglianese Photos

Bishop Court Hill Shows Way in Gravesend

Melnyk Racing Stables' speedy Bishop Court Hill took control of the $110,600 Gravesend Handicap (gr. III) coming away from the gate and rolled to a measured one-length victory under John Velazquez on the Aqueduct inner track Sunday.

Bishop Court Hill, a 6-year-old Holy Bull gelding, earned his first victory since taking last spring's Carter Handicap (gr. I) on Aqueduct's main track.

The Todd Pletcher-trained chestnut lost four in a row since then and was coming off a sixth-place showing in the seven-furlong Sport Page Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) over the Aqueduct main track Nov.4, finishing nearly 18 lengths behind Silver Wagon.

Breaking from the far outside in the field of nine in the six-furlong Gravesend, Bishop Court Hill went directly to the front and was in command after setting fractions of :22 and :44 2/5. Carrying co-top weight of 117 pounds, he led by nearly three lengths at the top of the stretch and outlasted his rivals under urging.

Santana Springs, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan at odds of 21-1, rallied late for second, overtaking 17-10 favorite Will He Shine and jockey Ramon Dominguez by a head.

The final time was 1:09 1/5 on a fast track.

"I still can't believe how fast he broke," said Velazquez. "He's the kind of horse that doesn't like the stick, so I was real happy that he was clear the whole way. It was a big effort. When he shows up, he's very tough to run down."

The Kentucky-bred Bishop Court Hill has two wins and a second in three starts on the Aqueduct inner strip, all coming this year. He ends the 2006 campaign with three wins, two seconds, and a third in eight starts and earnings of more than $350,000.

Overall, Bishop Court Hill, who earned $66,360 for Sunday's win, has an 8-5-3 record in 29 starts while banking $582,290. Pam duPont LLC bred the winner, who is out of Just Cuz, by Cormorant.

Sent off as the second choice, he paid $9.20, $6.10, and $4.50.

Santana Springs, winless now in seven starts since taking the 2005 Amsterdam (gr. II) at Saratoga, returned $16 and $8.30.

The lightly raced 4-year-old Will He Shine, making his first stakes start after convincing back-to-back allowance scores, was $2.70 to show.

It was more than four lengths back to Introspect in fourth, with Judiths Wild Rush, Manttoloking, Maddy's Lion, Lucky Gamble, and Spooky Mulder completing the order.

Aqueduct will close for a Christmas break.

Live racing resumes Dec. 27.

(Chart, Equibase)