Roger L. Coles Jr.'s Shake You Down had too much class and speed for his six opponents in Saturday's $109,000 Gravesend Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct, and that easily translated to a front-running, 2 ¼-length victory over Way to the Top for the multiple graded stakes winner.
The six-furlong Gravesend is the final graded stakes in New York this year.
A 5-year-old Montbrook gelding, Shake You Down was clearly the class of the field. He won three consecutive graded stakes while ripping off a five-race earlier this year and was third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita in October. He followed that with a second-place finish in the DeFrancis (gr. I) Nov. 15 at Laurel.
Shake You Down carried top weight of 124 pounds, spotting the field his rivals between eight and 14 pounds. But it wasn't enough. With Mike Luzzi along for the ride, he won driving while turning in a 1:09 3/5 clocking on a fast track, his seventh win in 13 starts in 2003.
"We were a little worried about him getting away cleanly," said trainer Scott Lake. "He had two bad breaks in a row, but this time he got away well and everything went right. One hundred and twenty-four pounds is a lot of weight; we spotted between 8 and 14 pounds, and he still ran a great race. Your always want that grade I win. You start to lost a little confidence in the horse, thinking that maybe he is sliding down a little bit. So, it was real nice to see him do what he did today."
Few doubted Shake You Down, who went off as the 4-5 post-time favorite.
Using his magnificent speed, Shake You Down wrested the lead from momentary pacesetter Black Silk. He settled into a comfortable pace while under some pressure, going :22 3/5; :45 1/5 and :57. Way to the Top, who fell into a stalking spot with Javier Castellano behind the frontrunner, could not match strides with Shake You Down down the lane, but held off a moderate late rally by Gators N Bears for the place.
The winner's purse of $65,400 boosted Shake You Down's career earnings to $998,560.
"He's not a real sharp breaker," Luzzi said. "He kind of just comes out of there. We didn't have a plan, and I wasn't committed to anything. Today was the first time I put him dead on the fence, and he relaxed. It was a good feeling. He finished up good."
Lake said that Shake You Down will likely return to action at Gulfstream Park, Fla. in the Sunshine Millions early next year.
Shake You Down returned $3.80, $2.50 and $2.20 to win. Way to the top returned $5.10 and $3.10. Gators N Bears' show price was $2.90. The also-rans were Papua, Black Silk and Presidential Affair.
Aqueduct will be closed from Monday through Thursday (Christmas Day). Racing resumes on Friday. First race post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern.