03/07/2009 1:00AM

Ah Day backs up the talk in Toboggan


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - King Leatherbury is a man of his word.

Earlier this week, the legendary Maryland-based trainer said Ah Day was ready to fire off a 216-day layoff and that he would give apprentice jockey Sheldon Russell his first stakes win in the Grade 3 Toboggan Stakes at Aqueduct.

In dramatic fashion, Russell guided Ah Day ($16.80) from last to first to win the $110,700 Toboggan by a head a over fellow Maryland shipper Eternal Star. It was three-quarters of a length back to Saint Daimon in third. They were followed in the order of finish by Lucky Island, 9-5 favorite Driven by Success, Joey P., West Coast Flier, Grand Champion, and Place Your Bet.

It was the ninth stakes victory for Ah Day, his first in a graded event. It was the first stakes victory for Russell, who had gone winless in his first 15 stakes rides.

Russell was thrown in a spill here on Thursday and took off his mounts on Friday to be ready for Saturday. After Ah Day broke slowly from posto9, Russell guided him to the inside and saved ground while West Coast Flier, Grand Champion, and Driven by Success dueled through fractions of 22.11 seconds and 44.77 for the opening half-mile.

Ah Day was charging down the center of the track while Saint Daimon and Eternal Star took brief turns on the lead inside the sixteenth pole. Ah Day got there in the final two strides to nip Eternal Star while covering six furlongs in 1:10.28.

"King's orders were to not rush the horse; there's a lot of speed in the race," Russell said. "He pretty much took himself back. Being slow out of the gate, I sat on him, sat on him, saved as much ground as I could, angled him out, and he came running."

While Russell said he thought he was going to get to the wire in time, Leatherbury, who watched the race from Laurel Park, wasn't as optimistic.

"No, I didn't," said the 75-year-old Leatherbury, who also owns the horse. "I knew he was gradually eating it up, it was just a matter of having that wire hang out there for awhile. It was a good race. He's a good horse."

Leatherbury said Ah Day would return for the Grade 1 Carter on April 4. Ah Day finished third to Silver Wagon in the 2007 Carter.