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OZONE PARK, NY – Michael Dubb’s Chateau made his graded stakes debut on Saturday, and the veteran 6-year-old proved it was worth the wait after surging to the front and having plenty left in the tank en route to a gate-to-wire 3 1/2-length score in the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (G3) for 4-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Chateau, who had made just two previous stakes appearances through his first 32 career starts, broke sharp under meet-leading rider Kendrick Carmouche from post 3, leading the six-horse field through swift opening fractions of 22.81 seconds for the quarter-mile with the half in 46.18 over the fast main track.
Chateau built on his advantage approaching the turn and was never seriously challenged in the stretch, besting a charging Wendell Fong to complete the six-furlong course in 1:12.10.
Chateau, who earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure for a 1 1/2-length win against allowance company on January 18 going six furlongs, again led at every point of call at the Big A for trainer Rob Atras. The Flat Out gelding notched consecutive wins for the first time since 2018, when he won three in a row at the claiming and allowance levels.
“That was emotional,” Atras said. “He came running out of the gate and put away the other speed horse [Happy Farm], who is no slouch. Kendrick broke him so sharp. We had a plan; obviously it was no secret. He put away that horse and was controlling the race and got a little separation. When they turned for home, it didn’t look like anyone was coming and Kendrick still had some horse. It was an amazing performance.
“We’ve always liked him and Kendrick has really figured out how to ride him. He’s been a big help.”
Atras, who took over the training duties last year, has seen Chateau go 2-2-2 in his last six starts and now could earn the right to face even more challenging competition in the Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap, with the seven-furlong sprint on the undercard of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3 at Aqueduct.
“It might be pushing it for distance, but off this race anything is possible,” Atras said. “We’ll see how he comes out of the race and go from there.”
Off at 7-2, Chateau returned $9.60 on a $2 win wager. The Kentucky bred improved his career earnings to $477,769.
“When you read into it and there’s a lot of speed, nine times out of ten, it doesn’t happen that way. I knew my horse had to be forwardly placed,” Carmouche said. “I figured him out last time. This time I knew Rob had given him enough time in between races where he could carry his speed a little longer.
Carmouche has been aboard for his last two victories.
“The track is a little different than last time and is a little deeper,” Carmouche said. “The speed is carrying. But no matter what I just had to let him run his race and carry him home.”
Gold Square’s Wendell Fong, who gave trainer Natalia Lynch her first career win in the Fire Plug in January at Laurel Park, outkicked Speed Pass by 3 1/4 lengths for second.
“It set up perfect. He did everything he was supposed to do and our goal was to see if he could handle the track and he did his job today,” said Lynch, who said she excepts Wendell Fong to go to the Carter. “It’s just really good to see him compete at this level again.”
Added Wendell Fong rider Trevor McCarthy: “He got a good break. The Baffert horse [No. 5, Speed Pass] broke bad and then rushed up to get position and I thought that was the horse that would take me there and be a good horse to follow. When I tipped out, he finished up strong. He just couldn’t catch the speed horses. They were going at a pretty decent fraction and speed is pretty good here at Aqueduct.”
Pete’s Play Call, the favorite, finished fourth, with Happy Farm and Share the Ride completing the order of finish.
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