Donk sends out Thin White Duke, Yes and Yes in $150K Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship
by Mary Eddy
Conditioner David Donk will have two chances to capture his first $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship with Thin White Duke and Yes and Yes in Friday’s six-furlong outer turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“I always say, ‘If I’m going to lead one over, I’ll lead two over,’” said Donk. “It’s a common partnership, and they have different [running] styles, so that works out well.”
Breeder Phil Gleaves, Steven Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard’s Thin White Duke, a New York-bred Dominus gelding, enters from a determined optional claiming victory traveling six furlongs on October 27 at Belmont at the Big A under a well-timed ride from Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Thin White Duke rallied from 5 1/2 lengths off the pace after being bumped at the start and needed every bit of the stretch to make a winning drive, but secured a half-length victory over Prime Factor in a final time of 1:08.64 over good footing. The win came after an even fifth-place finish behind returning rival Dancing Buck in the Grade 3 Belmont Turf Sprint on October 1 at Belmont at the Big A.
“He’s really developed that turn of foot, which is really nice,” said Donk. “He’s doing really good and he’s certainly been a fun horse to have.”
Thin White Duke, who was initially trained by Gleaves before he retired last year, has posted three wins for Donk, including a nose score over Dancing Buck in the Lucky Coin in September at Saratoga Race Course. His lone graded placing came when defeated a neck by multiple graded stakes-winner Golden Pal in a thrilling renewal of the Grade 3 Troy in August at Saratoga, finishing a neck back of runner-up True Valor, who was headed by Golden Pal at the wire.
Thin White Duke earned his other two stakes coups as a juvenile with back-to-back triumphs against state-breds in the Funny Cide at Saratoga and in the Aspirant at Finger Lakes Racetrack. He boasts a record of 20-5-3-5 and earnings of $495,001.
“He was a really good 2-year-old, so he showed ability [early on],” said Donk. “He gives us a lot of hope for next year and he’s had a great year. It will be really fun to bring him back next year.”
Jose Ortiz has been tasked with the ride from post 6.
Yes and Yes, bred and owned by Gleaves with Joseph R. Straus, Jr. and Hugh Fitzsimons, will look to find the winner’s circle after two on-the-board finishes against stakes company. The 6-year-old son of Sidney’s Candy was a last-out third in the Belmont Turf Sprint, finishing 5 1/4 lengths behind the Michelle Nevin-trained Dancing Buck after stumbling at the start and rallying from sixth.
“He’s had a slight break and freshening, but he’s done well,” said Donk. “He stumbled really badly at the start, so it cost him position. Not that he would have beat Michelle’s horse, but he would have made a more tactical race. It will be interesting to run him back.”
Like his stablemate, Yes and Yes began his career with Gleaves and moved to the care of Donk last year. He is in search of his first stakes victory in his sixth attempt, his other efforts this year including a game finish in the Da Hoss in September at Colonial Downs where he was elevated to second after crossing the finish line third.
Yes and Yes will leave post 10 with Jorge Vargas, Jr. in the irons.
Breeder J and N Stables and Diamond M Stable’s New York-bred Dancing Buck will look to double up on stakes scores for trainer Michelle Nevin after his last-out triumph in the Grade 3 Belmont Turf Sprint on October 1.
The 4-year-old son of War Dancer enters from an impressive five-length victory where he led at every point of call in the six-furlong sprint contested over yielding footing, driving strongly down the stretch under Manny Franco to earn the first graded win of his career. The effort garnered a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure.
The consistent dark bay has been on the board in 5-of-6 starts this year, including a narrow nose defeat to Thin White Duke in the aforementioned Lucky Coin on September 2. His other two victories this year came in a seven-furlong first-level allowance in June at Belmont Park and an optional claiming sprint in July at the Spa.
Out of the multiple stakes-placed Catienus mare Frivolous Buck, Dancing Buck is a close relative of the Nevin-trained stakes winner Our Last Buck. He has amassed over $431,000 in earnings through a record of 14-6-3-1.
Manny Franco retains the mount from post 12.
Calumet Farm’s Gear Jockey enters from a close fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Woodford sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on October 8 at Keeneland in his first start off a four-month respite for trainer Rusty Arnold. Under the guidance of Luis Saez, Gear Jockey tracked in second off the pace set by Golden Pal and battled on gamely down the lane, fading slightly and securing the fourth-place finish in a dead heat with returning foe Bad Beat Brian. The pair finished a half-length back of Artemus Citylimits, who was nosed out of place honors by Oceanic.
Gear Jockey, a 5-year-old son of Twirling Candy, earned his first graded placing as a maiden with a close third-place effort in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Bourbon in 2019 at Keeneland before posting another close third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf that November at Santa Anita, finishing one length behind the victorious Structor.
The bay horse broke his maiden in his ninth lifetime outing in January 2021 at Gulfstream Park, one start before coming up a half-length shy in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at the Hallandale Beach oval a month later. He went on to post two more victories at allowance level and finished third in the Grade 3 Troy at Saratoga Race Course before earning his first graded win in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint last September at Kentucky Downs.
Ridden to victory by Jose Lezcano, Gear Jockey was given a prominent trip and sat a half-length off pacesetter Bombard before unleashing his bid in the turn to take a two-length advantage at the stretch call of the six-furlong sprint. Gear Jockey extended his margin down the lane and crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths the best in a final time of 1:07.90.
Gear Jockey is still in search of his first win since, but earned another graded placing when third in the Grade 2 Shakertown in April at Keeneland.
Lezcano has the call from post 9.
Michael Dubb and Michael Caruso’s New York-bred Run Curtis Run will also look to double up on stakes scores after a last-out victory in the Carle Place on October 23 at Belmont at the Big A. Trained by Mike Maker, the son of Summer Front entered from three consecutive runner-up finishes at stakes level and put it all together with a last-to-first rush to claim the 1 1/2-length victory under Jose Ortiz.
Bred by Larry Goichman, Run Curtis Run earned graded placings this summer with runner-up efforts in the Grade 3 Quick Call presented by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at Saratoga and the Grade 2 Franklin-Simpson in September at Kentucky Downs. He earned his other stakes victory as a juvenile in the state-bred Rick Violette over Saratoga’s main track.
Run Curtis Run will emerge from post 11 in rein to Kendrick Carmouche.
Completing the field are Voodoo Zip [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], Bad Beat Brian [post 2, Christopher Emigh], Nathan Detroit [post 3, Eric Cancel], Anaconda [post 4, Paco Lopez], Nothing Better [post 5, Horacio Karamanos], Chewing Gum [post 7, Javier Castellano] and Scuttlebuzz [post 8, Junior Alvarado].
Prime Factor, who adds blinkers, is listed as an also-eligible. Jaxon Traveler, Happy Farm and Greeley and Ben are entered for the main-track only.
The Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship is slated as Race 8 on Friday’s nine-race program, which also features the Grade 3, $175,000 Comely for sophomore fillies traveling nine furlongs [Race 7]; the Grade 3, $300,000 Long Island for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 3/8 miles over the inner turf [Race 6]; and the $100,000 Notebook for state-bred juveniles sprinting six furlongs [Race 4]. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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