SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – Village King took advantage of a slow pace, made a late run, and beat Soglio in a photo for first in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct. This was the first win in the United States for the 4-year-old Argentinian-bred son of Campanologist.
Following the switch from turf to dirt, and the subsequent scratching of 10 horses from the race, only 6 horses made it to the gate to face off in the Grade 3 contest. Of the starters, Control Group broke best and took up the early lead with Exulting close behind. By the time they hit the first turn, Exulting claimed the lead with Control Group sitting a length back followed by Village King, Soglio, and Red Knight. As they made their way around the track they set slow fractions of :25.20, :50.49, and 1:15.16. Into the stretch, Village King came 3-wide at the leaders and then ducked inside to make a challenge along the rail. He quickly got up for the lead but faced tough competition from the post-time favorite Soglio on the outside. With a well-timed bob of the head, Village King finished ahead of Soglio. Control Group finished third with Exulting in fourth.
“It was too close to call,” said jockey Javier Castellano. “I mean, basically it could have gone either way. I think I am very lucky today, very fortunate to win the race.”
“This horse had trained pretty well on the dirt. He had also run well in South America on the dirt, so we felt it was worth a try,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “He kept fighting and cut the corner and we ended up on the right end of a head bob. It kind of gives us a ton of options going forward from here. He seems versatile and we’ll see what’s next”
Village King returned $11.80 to win, $6.90 to place, and $4.00 to show. Soglio brought back $5.20 to place and $3.40 to show, while Control Group paid $3.00 to show.
Scratched: Teodoro, Zulu Alpha, Call Provision, Inspector Lynley, Bigger Picture, Big Bend, Postulation, Special Envoy, Focus Group, Adulator