Mr. Buff strong to the wire in Alex M. Robb
by NYRA Press Office
Espresso Shot jolts to finish in East View victory
Chester and Mary Broman's homebred Mr. Buff outmuscled Twisted Tom in a stirring stretch duel to capture Saturday's co-featured $100,000 Alex M. Robb at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by John Kimmel, Mr. Buff arrived at the 1 1/8-mile test for New York-bred stock on a 2-race win streak but in search of his first stakes score. Sent to post as the 5-2 second choice under David Cohen, Mr. Buff broke alertly and settled comfortably in second position along the rail as Black Tide set the opening quarter-mile in 23.95 seconds.
Mr. Buff, travelling well in hand, made the half-mile in a swift 48.42 and maintained command approaching the final turn as Black Tide faded with Twisted Tom and Control Group, the wide-traveling 8-5 mutuel favorite, prepared to make their bid after three-quarters in 1:13.26.
Twisted Tom loomed large late in the turn, but Mr. Buff persevered the length of the lane to earn a hard-fought nose victory in a final running time of 1:53.59. Twisted Tom completed the exacta, 3 1/2-lengths in front of Control Group. Testosterone, Winston's Chance and Black Tide completed the order of finish. Hit It Once More and Caledonian were scratched.
Cohen said he was content to sit off the early speed of Black Tide.
"He's the type of horse that even though he's very speedy, you don't really want to ask him, because he gets too rank early," said Cohen. "So, in my mind, I thought the outside horse [Black Tide] was going to go like it did. I let him develop into his pace and find his stride that he likes down the backside. Once he finds his stride, he has so much heart and is really hard to pass. He showed that again today."
Bred in New York by his owners, the Friend or Foe chestnut banked $61,875 in victory while improving his record to 7-6-3 from 25 starts. He paid $7.40 to win.
In Race 6, Espresso Shot stayed off Shelley Ann's early speed, gained control coming out of the turn and outkicked her challenger in the stretch to win the 81st running of the $100,000 East View for state-bred juveniles fillies in the day's first stakes at the Big A.
Owned by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stables, Espresso Shot ran midpack as Sassy Agnes surged to the front out of the gate, with Shelley Ann gaining ground from the inside post before taking the lead, posting an opening quarter-mile in 23.93 seconds and the half in 48.10 on the muddy and harrowed main track.
Under jockey Eric Cancel, Espresso Shot started to move from the outside, overtaking Sassy Agnes and Shelley Ann heading into the homestretch. Under right-handed encouragement, the Mission Impazible filly gained separation on Shelley Ann and finished strong to post a 3 ¼-length win, completing one mile in 1:40.73.
"I had a wonderful trip. The filly was just dragging me all the way. I just tried to keep her in the clear, trying to get the best spot in the race for her, and that's how it worked out," Cancel said. "We were in the clear all the way and as soon as I asked her and let her go, she opened up on the field.
"I think she appreciates going a mile. I can place her a little bit better without having to do too much. She likes to be up close going long, and that's why I let her be where she wanted to be, and it worked out well."
Off at 2-1, the Jorge Abreu trainee won her first career stakes in her third attempt and registered her second career win in five starts, earning a trip to the winner's circle for the first time since breaking her maiden at second asking on September 14 at Belmont Park.
Espresso Shot, bred by Twin Creeks Farm, returned $6.80 on a $2 win bet, nearly doubling her career earnings to $118,600.
Shelley Ann, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, finished a head in front of Elegant Zip [a Silver member of the NYRA Starter Loyalty Program] for second.
"She is so game. She showed tremendous heart," said Shelley Ann jockey Reylu Gutierrez. "The seven horse [Espresso Shot] passed me a couple of lines wide, but when the other horse [Elegant Zip, No. 4] tried to pass me for place, she pinned her ears and gave it one more try. She's all heart."
Forever Changed, Awesome Alana, Lem Me Have It, Three Birds, Sassy Agnes, Take Me to Hardoon and Little Song completed the order of finish. Maiden Beauty was scratched.
Stakes action continues on Sunday at Aqueduct with an 8-race card highlighted by the 5th running of the $100,000 Bay Ridge for New York-bred fillies and mares, 3-years-old and upwards. First post time is 12:50 p.m.
Live racing will be a part of the Empire State's New Year's celebrations with an 8-race card, including the $100,000 Damon Runyon, set for a 12:50 p.m. start on New Year's Eve Monday; and a 9-race card, headed by the $150,000 Jerome highlighting a New Year's Day card featuring a 12:20 p.m. first post.