Rush Bay gamely fought off a late bid from Last Answer to win the inaugural $301,200 Nijinsky Stakes (Can-II) in an upset by a diminishing neck Sunday at Woodbine.Ridden by David Clark for Kentucky-based trainer Tom Amoss, Mueller Thoroughbred Stable's Rush Bay, breaking from the outside post eight, went to the front shortly after the start of the 12-furlong turf event and dueled with Pellegrino for much of the race. After the six furlongs was reached in a pedestrian 1:15.73, Rush Bay shook loose and inched away as the field turned into the long stretch of the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.The 2-1 race favorite, Jambalaya and jockey Jono Jones, made a threatening move around the turn, but Rush Bay stayed tough on the inside. Then, it was Last Answer, with rider Emile Ramsammy, who split horses in deep stretch and mounted a late challenge but could not get by at the wire. The final time over a yielding course was 2:33.89. "He was so relaxed, and I had so much horse," Clark said. "It gave me such a good feel going to the first turn. It seemed like nobody wanted the lead today, and he basically went there on his own. When (Last Answer) came outside, I knew he had some fight left in him."Jambalaya wound up third, 2 1/2 lengths behind, while General Jumbo came on for fourth. Three-year-old Seaside Retreat, recently an impressive second in the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) for trainer Mark Casse, could manage no better than fifth as the 5-2 second choice. Pellegrino, Shoal Water, and Diplomatic Agent trailed the field.Dismissed at 9-1, Rush Bay, a 4-year-old son of 1985 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Cozzene, was winning his third race in five outings this year. But he'd come off a disappointing effort in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) July 22 over a soft turf, a well-beaten fifth to Cosmonaut in the 1 1/4-mile contest.For the victory, Rush Bay pocketed $180,000, pushing his career bankroll to more than $560,000. He paid $20.80, $9.10, and $5.90, combining with Last Answer ($4.80, $3.20) for a $152.50 exacta. Jambalaya ($2.40) completed a trifecta worth $303.80.The inaugural Nijinsky Stakes, named for one of Northern Dancer's most famous sons, was reduced to eight starters when Sky Conqueror and Revved Up were morning scratches.
Bill Sorokolit's Sky Conqueror was the morning line 5-2 choice after winning his last two starts. Trainer Darwin Banach indicated that the 4-year-old son of Sky Classic will be pointed instead to the $500,000 Man o'War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Sept. 9, over 1 3/8 miles of the turf.(Chart, Equibase)