OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Following a captivating duel in the stretch, Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds LLC and Black Swan Stable’s Kid Cruz outlasted a very game Madefromlucky to capture his first career graded stakes win and second consecutive victory of the year in the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Stakes for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Breaking as the 3-2 post-time favorite from post position 2 with regular rider Jose Ortiz aboard, Kid Cruz was forwardly placed, tracking Madefromlucky, who quickly grabbed the lead and set fractions of 24.15 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 49.13 for the half.
As the field moved along the backstretch, Kid Cruz shifted from the rail to the three-path, moving past Good Luck Gus to engage the leader as the pair hooked up at the top of the stretch. Battling back and forth to the wire, Ortiz lost his left rein late past the three-sixteenths pole, but it made no difference as Kid Cruz continued to prevail to win by a half-length, completing the 1 ¼ mile distance in a final time of 2:04.52.
“He broke good. I put him close, where I wanted to be,” said Ortiz. “At the top of the stretch I felt very good. I had a lot of horse. When we hit the quarter pole, I looked back and no one was coming. I knew I had Johnny already. When I hit my horse left-handed, I lost the rein, but the race was over. It’s cold and it’s raining, so it happens. Kid Cruz is not an easy horse to ride. You have to ride him the whole way. He made me tired, but it paid off.”
Returning $5 for a $2 win wager, the victory increased Kid Cruz’s career earnings to $782,025 for the Linda Rice trainee. Entering the Excelsior off a stakes win in the John B. Campbell Stakes at Laurel Park, Rice was encouraged with the now 5-year-old’s performance.
“We kind of expected the race to unfold the way it did,” said Rice. “There was such a lack of speed on paper. I didn’t think we’d be on the lead but we had an inside post and Jose’s gotten to know the horse pretty well. He’s ridden him quite a few times consecutively and he knows you have to work to put him into position because otherwise he’ll take himself out completely. We’re just thrilled we ended up on the right end of it.”
Following Madefromlukcy in second were Turco Bravo, Norumbega and Good Luck Gus.