Straight Arrow takes the wide route in Empire Classic Stakes
Neither a wide trip nor a quick turnaround off a career-best effort proved detrimental to Straight Arrow on Sunday as the 4-year-old gelding took over in upper stretch under Jairo Rendon and drew clear to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $250,000 Empire Classic Stakes at Aqueduct.
Sheriff Bianco got second by a head over his Linda Rice-trained stablemate Un Ojo. Cicciobello, part of the early pace, finished fourth and was followed by Drake’s Passage, the 9-5 favorite, Olympic Dreams, Barese, Lobsta and Curlin’s Wisdom. Aggregation scratched.
The Empire Classic was the final event on a 10-race New York Showcase Day program that included eight stakes for horses bred in New York. It was also the final race of the Belmont At the Big A meet.
The regular Aqueduct fall meet begins Thursday.
Straight Arrow had to go a bit wide into the first turn, and ultimately settled in a three-wide stalking trip in the second flight of horses behind dueling leaders Lobsta and Cicciobello. Those who were heads apart through a half-mile in 46.87 seconds over a sealed muddy track.
Straight Arrow moved into second at the three-eighths pole, took over from Cicciobello at the three sixteenths pole and cruised home an easy winner.
“I sat back a little behind the speed and just [waited] until home and asked him,” Rendon told NYRA. “When you ask him, he’s gone.”
Straight Arrow, a 4-year-old gelding by Arrogate owned by Laura Barrish, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.51 and returned $7 as the second choice.
Straight Arrow was running back two weeks after he won an off-the-turf statebred allowance in the mud by nine lengths, for which he earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He’s lightly raced and I really don’t train hard,” trainer Michael Dini said. “The meet is coming to an end and he’s a hard horse to train. It took two years to get him to the races.”
Dini, who winters in Tampa, said he would take Straight Arrow there for the winter and devise a game plan for the gelding that could include races on turf or dirt.
‘Audrey’ takes Distaff; Barrera’s first stakes win
Know It All Audrey ran by pacesetting Ichiban inside the sixteenth pole and drew clear to win the $250,000 Empire Distaff Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths, giving her trainer Oscar Barrera III his first career stakes win.
Sitting an up-close third along the inside under Javier Castellano, Know It All Audrey tripped outside at the head of the lane and gradually gained on Ichiban, before corralling Ichiban at the sixteenth pole. Ichiban finished by 2 1/4 lengths over Venti Valentin, the favorite. Sweet Mystery finished fourth and was followed by Sunset Louise, April Antics and Tough Street.
The race was run over a muddy, sealed track, which actually played to Know It All Audrey’s advantage as she had three previous wins over a wet track.
“’When I saw the track condition and they sealed it and the rain kept falling, I knew she was going to give us a good race because she’s always shown up every single time she’s run for us and her record on a sealed, muddy, good track has always been pretty fantastic,” Barrera told NYRA publicity.
Know It All Audrey, a 4-year-old daughter of Shackleford, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.57 and returned $10.80 to win.
Barrera, who has mainly claiming horses, had been 0 for 11 previously in stakes.
“Emotional, happy, super excited,” Barrera told NYRA. “As a claiming trainer, it’s pretty tough to win stakes races with claimers, so this is definitely the topping on the cake for all of us.”