SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables’ Mind Control took over at the top of the stretch, then held sway in a tight finish late to triumph in Saturday’s $150,000 Toboggan Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.
Breaking from the far outside post 8 under John Velazquez as the even-money favorite, Mind Control was away well and raced closely along the outside of Still Having Fun, who broke one post to his inside. Racing in step down the backstretch and into the far turn, Still Having Fun and Mind Control dueled through opening fractions of :23.64 and :46.76.
Off the far turn, the two continued to battle until Still Having Fun gave way near the 1/16 pole, but the cavalry was close behind and soon joined the fight. American Anthem, Nicodemus, and Sunny Ridge all ranged up in tandem and met Mind Control’s throat latch inside the final 100 yards, but the Greg Sacco trainee reengaged and refused to yield.
Crossing in a blanket three-horse photo finish, Mind Control was ruled the victor by a nose in a final time of 1:24.23 for the 7-furlong sprint over the fast main track.
“He’s such a nice horse,” Velazquez said. “He lets you do whatever you want with him. The only thing; he started to wait on the horses coming down the stretch, and I had to get him focused again to pay attention. I had to hit him left-handed, but I also didn’t want to foul anyone and at the same time I wanted him to see the horses to his outside. Once he did, he got competitive right away.”
Nicodemus was himself a nose ahead of Sunny Ridge, while American Anthem had to steady slightly in the late running and finished a close fourth. The stewards conducted an inquiry into the stretch run but made no changes to the original order of finish.
Still Having Fun crossed in fifth ahead of T Loves a Fight and Bon Raison to complete the order of finish. Arch Cat and The Sicarii were scratched.
Mind Control’s win, his fifth at the stakes level, improved his overall record to 11-6-2-1 with $887,500 earned. The 4-year-old son of Stay Thirsty had been absent since winning the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at Saratoga last August.
“From a trainer’s standpoint, if you have the right horse, you expect them to be ready,” Sacco said. “If we did our job, we expected Mind Control to win today. He was coming off the layoff, but he was ready to run. He ran to his training and showed the true guts and determination he shows in all of his races. I wish he wouldn’t wait on horses, but that being said, you never know how they will perform, but he trained great. The word I used to describe him last year still stands: genuine. He’s a genuine horse and we are really happy he came back the way he did.”
Mind Control returned $4.30 to win, $2.90 to place, and $2.20 to show. Nicodemus brought back $4.80 to place and $2.80 to show, while Sunny Ridge paid $3.40 to show.