Sharp Azteca, who weakened to place second by half a length to Battle of Midway in the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, stormed back from that stinging defeat to earn the Grade 1 triumph that eluded him through 15 previous starts.
The 4-year-old Freud colt assumed the lead at the top of the stretch in the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets and poured it on to dominate by 5 ¼ lengths under jockey Javier Castellano on Saturday at Aqueduct.
“I knew we were sitting on that Grade 1 and, you know what, I wasn’t expecting that big of a performance,” winning trainer Jorge Navarro said. “He ran his eyes out. What else can I ask?”
Sharp Azteca, a winner of half of his 16 starts, recorded a final time of 1:35.17.
Castellano said of Sharp Azteca: “We’ve known this is a special horse for a long time. You don’t see too many horses do this, when they’re going too fast in the Breeders’ Cup, then they have a short rest and the way they perform today.”
Castellano rode Sharp Azteca for the first time, replacing Paco Lopez.
Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle Stakes: Wonder Gadot rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to draw away by 3 ¾ lengths for trainer Mark Casse and John Velazquez, who rode her for the first time.
Wonder Gadot sat just off pacesetting Daisy before surging past her as they turned for home.
“She was going very comfortable and got away from the horses pretty easily,” said Velazquez.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle was 1:53.91.
Grade 3, $200,000 Go for Wand Handicap: Indulgent, a 4-year-old daughter of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, earned her first graded stakes victory in behalf of Godolphin Stable when she held off rallying Highway Star by one length in a final time of 1:37.75 for the mile.
“To put a graded victory under her name is very, very important,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA. “It’s great for Sheik Mohammed’s breeding to carry on this great family that’s been so good to us.”
Bell said it is undecided whether Indulgent will be retired after the Go for Wand.