Performer makes the grade in G3 Discovery
by Keith McCalmont
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Phipps Stable and Claiborne Farm's Performer held off multiple graded-stakes winner Tax in a thrilling stretch duel to capture Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Discovery at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Performer rode a three-race win streak into the nine-furlong test for sophomores and led the field of seven into opening turn under regular pilot Joel Rosario.
Carlos L., aggressively ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, took command leading into the backstretch to mark the opening quarter-mile in 23.66 seconds and the half in 47.86 on the main track rated fast.
Tax, who captured the Grade 3 Withers at the Big A in February and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course in July, broke well from the inside post and saved ground from fifth position under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Rosario urged Performer to the lead through the final turn as Tax angled off the rail and advanced inside of Grumps Little Tots and outside of Performer to take second as the field turned for home. Performer and Tax hooked up down the lane but the well-rated leader had plenty in the tank to secure a 1 ¼-length win in 1:50.36. Tax stayed on strong to complete the exacta, 9 ¼-lengths the better of Grumps Little Tots.
En Wye Cee, Carlos L., Mubarmaj and Air Attack completed the order of finish. Majid was scratched.
Rosario said he was pleased to settle behind the headstrong Carlos L. in the early running.
"He broke very good. I just let him get his spot and see where I was. I was on the lead for a little bit. The horse on the outside was pulling to go, so I let him go and followed him," said Rosario. "He was there for me. The more I got into him, he was there. Any time a horse came to him, he was there and responded. He was real game. He wouldn't let the horse [Tax] go by. That was pretty good."
McGaughey said he was impressed by the first two-turn score for Performer.
"He's had a really good 3-year-old year; ran four times and won four times. It was the first time around two-turns and we moved him up a little bit in class," said McGaughey. "He beat a very nice horse who ran second, and I'm very pleased he got it done today around two turns.
"He trained really, really well coming into it and I thought it was a really good race and performance for him," added McGaughey. "Joel gave him a good ride and he was in perfect position all the way around. For him to have something left at the end to battle and pull away showed his ability."
Bred in Kentucky by Phipps Stables, Performer banked $110,000 in victory while improving his record to 4-0-1 from five starts. He paid $6.40 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes on Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card highlighted by the Grade 3, $200,000 Fall Highweight Handicap in Race 8. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.