03/21/2013 2:42PM

Aqueduct: Last Gunfighter eyes graded stakes win in Excelsior


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Fast track or wet, one turn or two, main track or inner, Last Gunfighter has handled it all so far since coming to trainer Chad Brown’s barn last fall.

Saturday, Last Gunfighter gets his first shot at becoming a graded winner while looking to extend his winning streak to five when he meets six rivals – including 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice – in the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct.

Last Gunfighter, a son of First Samurai, was transferred to Brown last summer. He won a maiden race at Belmont in October before winning an allowance race and the Raymond Earl Stakes over Aqueduct’s main track and the Evening Attire Stakes in January over Aqueduct’s inner track, the surface on which the Excelsior will be run.

Last Gunfighter was being pointed to the Stymie on Feb. 16, but that race failed to fill, which is why he will have nine weeks between starts.

“I don’t really know how that’s going to play out, whether it will be to his benefit or not,” Brown said. “I do know the horse is doing well. He’s a pretty solid horse that’s done well since he’s come to our barn.

“This is going to be the toughest field he’s faced, but he’s made a nice progression,” Brown added. “Every time we’ve give him a little something more to do he’s accomplished it.”

Rajiv Maragh will ride Last Gunfighter from post 2, and they should get some pace to run at with Colizeo and Joan’s Choice in the field.

Colizeo was claimed for $50,000 from Todd Pletcher on Dec. 31 by David Tanzman’s Silver Streak Stable and Steven Speranza. Gustavo Rodriguez, who has taken over the training in the wake of his brother Rudy’s three-week suspension, said the horse had some problematic heels when he first got to the barn.

With a little time to let those heal and the addition of blinkers to get him focused, Colizeo won an optional claimer Feb. 10 in front-running fashion.

Pletcher will be represented by Heart Butte and Mordi’s Miracle. Heart Butte came off a 13-month layoff to run ninth in the Grade 3 Tom Fool at six furlongs. Pletcher said he ran Heart Butte in that race because he needed a race and “we couldn’t find one at a suitable distance. . . . Hopefully, from a condition standpoint it set him up for this.”

Mordi’s Miracle, a son of Lawyer Ron, has two wins and a neck loss in his last three starts and should appreciate the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Excelsior.

Ruler On Ice ended a 10-race losing streak Jan. 30 with an allowance win over the inner track.

Isn’t He Perfect, second in the Evening Attire and the Moro Stakes, goes out first time for Edward Lotruglio with Kent Desormeaux named to ride.