One year after making his graded stakes debut in the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (G3), 7-year-old gelding Spartiatis used the six-furlong test to notch his first graded stakes triumph.
Tipping to the outside on the final turn and kicking on under a strong hand ride from jockey Rajiv Maragh, the Leon Blusiewicz trainee wore down pacesetter Chief Lion and prevailed by two lengths at Aqueduct Racetrack March 11.
Video: Tom Fool H. (G3)
Owned and bred by Constantine Peter Beler, Spartiatis has been a late-bloomer throughout his career. The son of Scat Daddy took six tries to break his maiden, finally doing so as a 4-year-old in March 2014, and toiled in allowance company for his next 15 starts before running sixth in last year's edition of the Tom Fool.
Spartiatis came into this year's running off a one-length win going six furlongs over the Aqueduct inner track Jan. 21 and used a similar trip to break through for his next-level victory Saturday. After saving ground along the rail early on in third, he was eased back to fourth through an opening quarter in :22.82 and remained in that spot as The Great War and Green Gratto attempted to challenge Chief Lion following a half in :46.21.
When Maragh angled his mount out, Spartiatis responded with a determined effort to get up in late strides, covering the distance in 1:11.23 over a track rated fast.
"The horse broke super sharp, which I was really happy about being in the inside position," Maragh said. "Leon gave me a loose rein to do whatever I wanted to do, so when the horse broke that sharp, I was just going to sit close and he was trying to drag me to the lead, which I didn't want to do. So I got him to settle back and then once I put him in the clear, he was powerful down the lane."
Sent off at 5-1 odds, Spartiatis returned $12.20, $5.90, and $3.90 to his backers. He improved his career mark to five wins from 31 career starts. He is out of the French Deputy mare Ne Plus Ultra.
"We're (grade 1) Carter-bound (April 8)," Blusiewicz said. "He's really settled down a whole lot. He's a different horse, if you just give him a chance."