03/23/2013 5:04PM

Aqueduct: Last Gunfigher handles rise in class to take Excelsior

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Last Gunfighter, under Rajiv Maragh, earns his fifth straight victory since joining Chad Brown's barn in the Grade 3 Excelsior.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Last Gunfighter passed another test Saturday at Aqueduct, earning his first graded stakes victory when he rallied along the rail under Rajiv Maragh to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes by two lengths.

 Mordi’s Miracle, the 2-1 favorite and part of a contested early pace with Colizeo, did well to be second by 5 1/2 lengths over Isn’t He Perfect. Joan’s Choice, Ruler On Ice, Colizeo, and Heart Butte completed the order of finish.

 The win was the fifth consecutive victory for Last Gunfighter, all for trainer Chad Brown. The streak began with a maiden win at Belmont in October and includes three stakes.

 “Every time we ask him to do more, he steps up and he continues to do what we ask him,” said Cherie DeVaux, the New York-based assistant to Brown.

 Maragh was enjoying the early stages of the Excelsior as four horses went out for the lead and Last Gunfighter settled in fifth, along the inside.

 Down the backside, it was Mordi’s Miracle and Colizeo who battled through a half-mile in 46.84 seconds with Last Gunfighter right behind that pair.

 Coming to the top of the stretch, Mordi’s Miracle had put away Colizeo, but Maragh had plenty of horse but was in search of room for Last Gunfighter.

 After angling off the rail in upper stretch, Maragh dove back to the inside in mid-stretch when Mordi’s Miracle, under Chris DeCarlo, drifted out. There was plenty of room to guide Last Gunfighter on through and he was a handy winner.

Last Gunfighter, a 4-year-old son of First Samurai owned by John Gunther, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.78 and returned $8.30 as the surprising third choice.

 “I had a lot of horse. I was just trying to find a clear path wherever it was,” Maragh said. “Once he did, he just ran on strong to the end.”

Irad Ortiz, Rodriguez take titles

 Irad Ortiz won two races on Saturday to finish with an inner-track meet-leading 79, three more than his brother Jose, who also won two on Saturday’s card, the final day of racing on the inner track.

 Rudy Rodriguez, who won the first two races run on the inner tack when it opened on Dec. 12, captured the trainers’ title with 41 wins, seven more than David Jacobson.

Drawing Away Stable and Jacobson finished as the leading owner with 12 wins, two more than Midwest Thoroughbreds, which kept a string of horses in New York this winter for the first time.

There is no racing at Aqueduct on Sunday due to Palm Sunday. The main track opens on Wednesday.