The NYSS stakes had to share the spotlight, however, as fan favorite Honor Code returned to the races in spectacular fashion, taking a 6 ½-furlong optional claimer with a breathtaking run from off the pace.
The winner of last year’s Grade 2 Remsen and runner-up in the Grade 1 Champagne had not raced since finishing second to Social Inclusion in an allowance race on March 12 at Gulfstream Park.
In the featured eighth race, the NYSS Thunder Rumble, Readthebyline broke on top and never looked back under Jose Ortiz, taking the field gate to wire in the seven-furlong sprint.
The 5-year-old gelding was reunited with trainer Michelle Nevin and owner Vincent Scuderi for the Thunder Rumble, who haltered the son of Read the Footnotes for $40,000 out of his last start.
“We weren’t particularly pointing to this race [after claiming him], it just happened to come up,” said Nevin. “He does have a ton of speed coming out of the gate, so I was just hoping that nobody else would go with him out too soon, to where he would use himself up. He seems to do his best running up front.”
Readthebyline boosted his career bankroll to $463,335.
Equipped with blinkers for the first time in her career, Vicki’s Dancer was eager early in the Staten Island, pulling Irad Ortiz, Jr. along as Uncle Southern led the field through the half.
Vicki’s Dancer stayed glued to the front-runner as the field rounded the far turn, overtook the leader at the top of the stretch, and prevailed by 1 ¼ lengths in a determined drive.
“I thought with the blinkers on, she’d be a little closer,” said Rudy Rodriguez, who trains Vicki’s Dancer for Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and Gary Aisquith. “At Saratoga, she looked like she was hanging, hanging, hanging. Mr. Dubb suggested we put blinkers on, and it worked.”
Vicki’s Dancer’s career bankroll now sits at $439,025.
(Sean Morris) Ortiz to rep North America
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., currently the leading rider on the New York Racing Association circuit, will represent North America in the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship on December 10 at Happy Valley in Hong Kong.
Ortiz is one of 12 riders competing for a $100,000 prize in the International Jockeys’ Championship. The competition kicks off the Longines Hong Kong International Races festivities, which wrap up with four Group I events on December 14 at Sha Tin.
“I’m very excited; it’s my first time going to [Hong Kong],” said Ortiz, who took the riding title at Belmont Park’s Fall Meet and won his first Breeders’ Cup event with Lady Eli in the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf.
With 259 winners through Friday at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course, Ortiz, 22, appears well on his way to notching his first riding title in New York. He currently ranks third nationally in both victories and purses earned, with 266 winners of more than $18.8 million.
Fields are taking shape for next week’s star-studded action, which features six graded stakes worth $2.3 million and culminates with the centerpiece of the fall meet at Aqueduct Racetrack - the Grade 1, $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap on November 29.
The prestigious one-mile dirt race is likely to attract a diverse group of horses from all over the country, led by California invaders Secret Circle and last year’s runner-up, Private Zone.
The fourth-place finisher from the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Bourbon Courage, is also likely to contest the Cigar Mile. Bourbon Courage finished with a flourish in the Sprint, making up 10 lengths in the stretch to be beaten only two lengths on the line for trainer Kellyn Gorder and Bourbon Lane Stable.
Transparent, who set a track record at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park in his latest outing, is probable for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The Cigar Mile wasn’t initially in the plans for the Godolphin color-bearer, but his last race was so impressive he earned a spot in the race, according to McLaughlin.
Itsmyluckyday, winner of the Grade 1 Woodward, is likely for trainer Eddie Plesa and Trilogy Stable. The son of Lawyer Ron is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap as the odds-on favorite.
Florida-shipper Atreides, West Coast-based Regally Ready, and Kelso winner Vyjack are also probable for the race.
A pair of stakes for 2-year-olds shares the Cigar Mile undercard, with the Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen celebrating its 100th edition and the Grade 2, $400,000 Demoiselle for fillies being run for the 93rd time.