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SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – With the blood still pumping through his veins after having run just nine days prior for a $40,000 tag, Drawing Away Stable’s Royal Albert Hall closed determinedly in the stretch, rumbling past his foes to win Saturday’s Bernardini Stakes at Aqueduct.
Breaking from post 6 as the 3/1 second choice, Royal Albert Hall took back toward the rear and allowed Hit It Once More to post fractions of :23.69, :49.49, 1:16.85, and 1:43.40 for the opening mile. Coming under a drive as the field neared the top of the stretch, Royal Albert Hall split between a weakening Leitone and a surging Shalako, then steadily moved toward the front, eventually overtaking the pacesetter near the 1/16 mile before drawing off late for the win. The Rob Atras trainee crossed with a 1 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 2:18.99 for the 1 5/16-mile event over the fast main track.
“It’s such a long race; I didn’t want to go wide the whole way around,” Alvarado said. “I wanted to give my horse a chance. By the 3/8 pole, I had to wade my way through it. He was there for me. I had to make him work for it, but he was there for me. After that, he carried me all the way to the wire.”
Hit It Once More had just enough left in the tank to hold onto second by a neck over Shalako, who flattened late after matching strides with the eventual winner at the top of the stretch. Forewarned, Holiday Bonus, Leitone, and the 4/5 favorite Weather Wiz completed the order of finish.
Royal Albert Hall’s win was his first since March 25, 2016, at Santa Anita Park and improved his overall record to 41-3-10-9. The British-bred 7-year-old gelded son of Royal Applause has now earned $353,198 following his first career stakes score.
“It’s a great feeling,” Atras said. “I thought the horse could do it. I thought he could get the distance, but coming back in nine days, he overcame a lot. I left it up to Junior, but everything has been closing today. He left a little bit sharp, a little keen out the gate, but Junior put him on the rail and got him to relax. He sifted through horses and picked up the pieces late. It was just a perfect trip.”
Royal Albert Hall returned $8.80 to win, $4.70 to place, and $3.60 to show. Hit It Once More brought back $14.20 to place and $6.80 to show, while Shalako paid $4.20 to show.
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