Coyote Lakes became the first winner of the Gallant Fox twice in the same year.

Coyote Lakes became the first winner of the Gallant Fox twice in the same year.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Coyote Lakes Earns Second 2001 Gallant Fox Victory

Roddy J. Valente's Coyote Lakes ran past Top Official in deep stretch to win the 1 5/8-mile Gallant Fox Handicap (gr. III) for the second time in 2001. The 7-year-old Society Max gelding previously won the race on New Year's Day 2001 after finishing 10th in 1999 and second in the 1998 renewal.

"I didn't know if he'd catch Top Official at the top of the stretch because it looked like that horse took the lead pretty easily," said winning trainer Bruce Levine. "He really surged in the last part of the race. I wanted him to be close to the pace. I'd rather him run fast early than slow. If you go slow, the field bunches up and everyone has a chance. I trained him hard for this race."

Coyote Lakes is the only horse to have won the Gallant Fox twice in the same year. A snowstorm forced Aqueduct to postpone last year's running until New Year's Day of 2001. Coyote Lakes, once a claiming horse in California, won for the third time in eight starts this year.

Mike Luzzi guided Coyote Lakes home 2 3/4 lengths in front, stopping the timer at 2:45.77 on the fast track.

"This horse, Bruce and I get along pretty good," said Luzzi. "Everything fell into place today and we had a good trip. It takes about three eighths of a mile to get him going, but when you're going a mile and five eighths you've got the time to do that. He's just a tough old horse."

Pleasant Divorce edged Top Official at the wire for second. Durmiente stayed up for fourth, followed by Le Beaucet, Grundlefoot, Franbulo, Banner Headline, Reef Chief, Paynes Bay, A Fleets Dancer, and Esperence.

Aside from the Gallant Fox, the only other graded stakes placing for Coyote Lakes also came on Aqueduct's inner dirt course, that coming in the Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III) on a sloppy course in January.

"I don't know what we'll do with him," said Levine. "Last year, he ran back in the Aqueduct Handicap and that's a possibility. This is the race we point him for each year. It's a big win."

Coyote Lakes earned $69,240 of the $115,400 purse and improved his career record to 16 from 54 starts. He was bred in Arizona by Triple AAA Ranch.

Sent off as the second choice, Coyote Lakes returned $8.40, $4.70, and $3.40. Pleasant Divorce paid $11 and $9.10 and completed the $87.50 exacta. Top Official was worth $7.10 to show. (Chart, Equibase)