Trainer Todd Pletcher tied the single-season mark for graded stakes victories Wednesday when Roman Dynasty won the $105,300 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) for 3-year-olds on the opening day of the Aqueduct fall meet.Pletcher, who dominated at Saratoga and Belmont Park this year, earned his 53rd graded stakes victory of the year, tying the record set by his mentor, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, in 1987.A son of Theatrical, Roman Dynasty was ridden by John Velazquez and defeated four rivals in the Discovery. The chestnut colt was kept well back of pacesetter Master of Disaster, who opened up a solid lead to the first turn in the nine-furlong, main-track event. Master of Disaster was soon joined by Valid Notebook, as the half fell in :47.99 and three-quarters went in 1:12.77.Roman Dynasty mounted a wide rally that was matched by 9-10 choice On Board Again and Javier Castellano, but he dug in for the half-length victory in 1:51.11. Owned by the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, Roman Dynasty scored his third win in seven career starts, worth $7.70, $3 and $2.40 to his backers. The victory was worth $64,380.He withstood a steward's inquiry into the stretch run."Roman Dynasty lugged in and put me in a bad spot," said Castellano of the runner-up. "Unfortunately, my horse never took off after that. My horse doesn't have quick acceleration. It took him a while to get going again." On Board Again, who returned $2.40 and $2.10, was subjected to a rider's claim of foul from Edgar Prado aboard third-place finisher Valid Notebook ($2.60) that was disallowed.For Pletcher, who has already surpassed his own single-season earning's record this year, plenty of opportunities exist to break the graded stakes mark before year's end.
"This horse is a nice horse," Pletcher said. "We gave him a chance on the turf because he is a Theatrical, but he is a dirt horse. We're pleased with his progress this year, and we expect him to have a big year next year."We'll see what happens. Maybe we've got another one (graded stakes victory) out there somewhere."Master of Disaster and Indian Hawke, who passed on the Empire Classic last Saturday at Belmont for this race, trailed. Champ Safi was scratched.(Chart, Equibase)