Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable's Kid Cruz was the favored half-length winner of Saturday's Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct, recording his first graded stakes win since 2014. The 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid covered the 1 1/4 miles over Aqueduct's main track, rated fast despite rainfall during the race, in 2:04.52 for trainer Linda Rice.
“We kind of expected the race to unfold the way it did,” said Rice. “There was such a lack of speed on paper. I didn't think we'd be on the lead but we had an inside post and Jose's gotten to know the horse pretty well. He's ridden him quite a few times consecutively and he knows you have to work to put him into position because otherwise he'll take himself out completely. We're just thrilled we ended up on the right end of it.”
Tucked in third along the rail in the early going, Kid Cruz and Jose Ortiz waited off the early pace set by Madefromlucky. Good Luck Gus prompted that one through a first quarter in :24.15 and a half in :49.13, after which Turco Bravo made a move up the inside to challenge Kid Cruz for the third spot. Ortiz convinced Kid Cruz to wait another sixteenth of a mile, but the horse was keen to go on and challenged Madefromlucky for the lead half-way through the final turn.
Head and head at the top of the lane, Madefromlucky had the inside position and fought on gamely, but Kid Cruz proved the stronger of the two and ground out the win by a half-length. Turco Bravo held on after his strong middle move to maintain third, and Norumbega settled for fourth.
“”He broke good. I put him close, where I wanted to be,” said Ortiz. “At the top of the stretch I felt very good. I had a lot of horse. When we hit the quarter pole, I looked back, and no one was coming. I knew I had Johnny already. When I hit my horse left-handed, I lost the rein, but the race was over. It's cold and it's raining, so it happens. Kid Cruz is not an easy horse to ride. You have to ride him the whole way. He made me tired, but it paid off.”
Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, Kid Cruz brought $80,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale. The Excelsior marked two wins in a row for the improving horse, and improved his overall record to seven wins from 19 starts. Kid Cruz now holds career earnings of $782,000.
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