No Catching Classic Endeavor in Excelsior

(from track report)
Herbert and Carol Schwartz' Classic Endeavor makes his home at Aqueduct, and Saturday afternoon, he made himself at home on his favorite track.

Taking charge from the start under jockey C.C. "Chuckie" Lopez, the 5-year-old Silver Buck horse notched a 1 ½-length victory over Balto Star in the $170,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III), covering the nine furlongs in 1:48. The victory, his 10th in 35 starts, improved his record over Aqueduct's main track to 4-2-3 from 10 starts. It also ended a five-race winning streak for favored Snake Mountain, who ran fourth.

"His form is impeccable," said trainer Scott Schwartz, who trains Classic Endeavor for his father. "I'm glad nobody took him for $20,000 (last November). I know he loves this track, but it is not just the track that has moved him up."

Uncontested on the lead, Lopez put Classic Endeavor through a pace of :23; :46 2/5; 1:10 2/5 and 1:35 on the fast track that was sealed earlier in the day as rain remained a constant threat. Balto Star mounted a rally on the turn, but entering the stretch, Balto Star was taken wide by Saint Verre as Classic Endeavor stayed his course.

"Chuckie (Lopez) did just what I thought he would do: he made everyone else chase him," Schwartz said. "It looked like he might have drifted in the last part. A mile and an eighth might be as far as he wants to go. He ran a monster race today. I knew if they left him alone with 113 pounds, he would be tough. He ran too good to lose the Stymie (by a nose to Snake Mountain on March 16). It was very nice to get the win today."

It was the second Excelsior victory for Lopez, who won this race in 1997 with Ormsby. Classic Endeavor returned $8.90 to win.

"Things went my way; they left me alone," Lopez said. "I was pretty confident I would be clear by the time we reached the backstretch, and then I just put the `sleeper' hold on them. I was clear at the half-mile pole and I figured we would be there before they came after us. He just really dug in through the stretch. It's amazing how good he has become."

Snake Mountain, the favorite of the 6,853 in attendance, ran an uncharacteristically dull race and was all out to get fourth.

"I don't know what happened," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens, as Snake Mountain's five-race win streak came to an end. "He was making a run on the inside, and then he came out. He didn't finish great, but he was running at the end. I'll take him back to the barn and look him over."

Tempest Fugit was third and Saint Verre was last in the six-horse field.

(Chart, Equibase)