Of all the qualities attributable to the better racehorses populating Aqueduct's extended winter season, perseverance ranks at the top. You could have drawn that conclusion Dec. 2 observing the trim winter-coated veterans, some of whom even appeared to stare inquisitively toward the still dormant inner dirt track. December's early frost suited the nine-horse field for the Queens County Handicap (gr. III) considerably more than most people who braved the same elements. Lenny Imperio employed his own brand of perseverance with Ann S. Fostock's Boston Party by saddling the 4-year-old 10 times, sans one added money appearance. Selecting the $83,900 Queens County for the Colonial Affair colt's stakes debut after a pair of swift one-turn allowance preps meant testing a field laden with considerable stakes experience. But the timing of both trainer and rider Norberto Arroyo Jr. could not have been better. Boston Party rallied under strong handling to garner a late closing neck victory from Talk's Cheap in the concluding 1 3/16 miles of graded competition on Aqueduct's main track. "We've just babied him along and taken it easy with him," said Imperio. "We wanted him ready for the winter." "When we received him he still had his conditions, and we could tell from his form he was not a summer horse," said assistant Laurie Lafavers. "We just gave him some light work and plenty of grazing after May. He likes cold weather, and his attitude is terrific." Up and coming 3-year-old Turnofthecentury, the youngest member of the field, appeared to possess a tactically advantageous turn of foot, and sure enough the gray son of Holy Bull marched alone on a strong gallop (:47.49, 1:11.85, 1:36.02) through most of the first mile. Talk's Cheap proceeded with an extended rally at that point, while farther back Arroyo saved all the ground with Boston Party. Talk's Cheap snuck clear of the admirably game pacesetter inside the eighth pole while Arroyo's primary challenge was keeping his fresh mount, now on the outside, in a straight path home before changing leads deep in the stretch. "This horse had some trouble previously, but we finally had the clean trip we needed," said 23-year-old Arroyo, a leading candidate in the race for Eclipse Award winning apprentice. His polished closing rides in several autumn stakes have buffered the impact of a set of minor riding related run-ins with New York Racing Association stewards. "I was full of horse today, but my main concern was how much he was lugging in through the stretch," Arroyo said. "Thankfully he didn't do it near the finish line."
Talk's Cheap, cleverly managed last season by trainer Linda Rice, turned in his most impressive local performance. "We shipped out of Belmont so often last year because he's a superior two-turn horse," Rice stated. "He's run well here before and I think he's found a winter home." Six-year-old Lager, the long-striding picture of perseverance, appeared poised to become the highest-weighted winner of the Queens County since Cox's Ridge in 1977, but was declared the morning prior when not checking in at 100%. Boston Party, out of the Blushing Groom mare Blushing Madame, completed the distance in 1:56.32 and in line with recent long-winded Easterners like Early Warning and Instant Friendship, may test his stamina further in a considerably more arid setting. "We'll nominate him to the Gallant Fox (gr. III) on Dec. 30, but his owners may also consider racing in Saudi Arabia," Lafavers said. "Most of all he has a heart of gold, and I hope he stays here." (Chart, Equibase)