OZONE PARK, NY – Constantine Peter Beler’s Spartiatis scored his first stakes victory, reeling in a front-running Chief Lion in the 42nd running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap for older sprinters on the inner track on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Spartiatis, a 7-year-old homebred gelding by Scat Daddy, broke well under jockey Rajiv Maragh and settled in fourth early, two lengths back from Chief Lion, who took the field of eight through a swift opening quarter-mile in 22.82 seconds and a half in 46.81. Kept within striking distance as the field rounded the far turn, Maragh angled Spartiatis out from the rail. The horse responded with a big late run, overtaking Chief Lion and drawing clear by two lengths.
Spartiatis, trained by Leon “Blue” Blusiewicz, completed the six-furlong dash in 1:11.23.
“Blue gave me a loose rein to do whatever I wanted to do,” said Maragh. “So when the horse broke that sharp, I was just going to sit close, and he was trying to drag me to the lead, which I didn’t want to do. I got him to settle back, and then, once I put him in the clear, he was powerful down the lane.
“I knew from riding this horse that his best run is when you swing him out into the stretch and give him a clear racetrack, and he runs good like that,” he continued. “So when it was time to go, I opted to do that, and he showed a powerful kick. I didn’t feel like I was at the bottom of him yet.”
Returning to stakes company for the first time since finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight last fall, Spartiatis picked up his fifth career win from 31 starts and boosted his earnings to $402,770.
Blusiewicz noted that Spartiatis will be likely pointed next to the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap on Wood Memorial Day, April 8.
“We’re Carter-bound,” he said. “Rajiv Maragh is a pretty hefty rider, very good.
“I didn’t want him to lead because he’ll get it early and give it up,” he added. “He’s got one good run, so [Maragh] took him back and had a lot of horse. It means a whole lot. I’m happy for the owner, Constantine Beler. He’s such a great guy, and he’s supported me for so many years.”
Chief Lion was second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of King Kranz in third. Sassicaia, favored at 2-1, was fourth, followed by Sir Rockport, All Star Red, Green Gratto, and The Great War to complete the order of finish.
Spartiatis returned $12.20, $5.90, and $3.90. Chief Lion brought back $5.20 and $3.90, while King Kranz paid $8.30 to show.
The Pick 6 went unsolved for a second straight day, triggering a carryover of $46,597.39 into Sunday’s live racing card. A consolation payout of $7,003 was awarded to bettors who had five-of-six winners. The Pick 6 will begin with Race 4 on Sunday, with a scheduled post time of 2:50 p.m. First post is at 1:20 p.m.