Well Fancied Edges Gander in Empire Classic

(from Belmont report)
Sanford Goldfarb's and Stewart Hoffman's Well Fancied, the post-time favorite of the New York Showcase Day crowd of 10,214, held off the stubborn 7-year-old Gander to win Saturday's $250,000 Empire Classic for New York breds at 1 1/8 mile.

Well Fancied, a 5-year-old Prosper Fager gelding, won for the fourth time in seven starts this year and 10th in 26 career starts. He notched his fourth consecutive victory. He earned $150,000, including $10,000 for his breeder, Seymour Cohen, and denied Gander a third win in this race.

Well Fancied took the race to his eight rivals, quickly overtaking longshot Mr. Determined to set the pace of :23 3/5; :46 3/5; 1;10 2/5 and 1:36 3/5, with Traffic Chief and Gander stalking three lengths back.

Well Fancied had barely kicked away from Mr. Determined at the sixteenth pole when Gander, who fell back on the turn, came back with renewed energy. His valiant bid fell short, however, and Well Fancied was the winner under jockey Edgar Prado in 1:49 2/5.

"The first part of the race unfolded the way I thought it would," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. "It looked like (trainer) Mike Hushion's horse (Traffic Chief) was going to keep Gander down on the inside, and that worked out to our favor. Everything went our way."

Well Fancied carried 124 pounds, giving one pound to Gander and 12 pounds to Mr. Determined.

"We might be stretching him going a mile and an eighth with a lot of weight, but he came through," Dutrow said. "I think we are going to run him back in the Cigar Mile (gr. I on Nov. 29). He likes Aqueduct a lot, and one turn is his game. We couldn't be happier with him right now."

"He was pretty comfortable," said Prado. "He's a fast horse, but he does things easy. I was trying to save as much as I could for the stretch. I knew someone was coming, but I didn't know it was Gander. He still had enough to hold on."

Gander won this race in 1999 and 2002.

"I thought he ran an excellent race," said trainer John Terranova of Gander's 54th career start. "Johnny (Velazquez) had to check out on the turn. He got squeezed, so a cleaner trip definitely would have been better for him. He's a good horse and he still firing big. But I thought he ran a helluva race."

Mr. Determined and jockey Julio Pezua were game to finish third.

Spite the Devil, Compelling World, Traffic Chief, Acceptable Venture, Private Emblem and Lord of the Thunder completed the order of finish.

Well Fancied returned $4.90, $3.50 and $3. Gander paid $4.90 and $4.30. Mr. Determined was $8.20 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)