02/21/2013 2:44PM

Aqueduct: N.F.'s Destiny survives two serious accidents to become solid sprinter

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
N.F.'s Destiny had to survive two traumatic injuries before he ever began racing. He goes for his third straight win in Saturday's sprint feature.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – N.F.’s Destiny is listed at even-money on the morning line for Saturday’s $62,000 first-level allowance feature at Aqueduct. Those odds are most apropos for a horse who, in two separate accidents as a weanling, was given a 50-50 chance to survive.

But survive N.F.’s Destiny did and now the 4-year-old New York-bred gelding is thriving as he seeks his third consecutive victory when he faces open company runners for the first time. The allowance serves as Saturday’s feature after the Kings Point Stakes for New York-breds failed to fill.

“I think he can be pretty handy in the New York-bred stakes program,” trainer Linda Rice said. “I’d like to run him through his conditions first. Some of those New York-bred sprinters – Head Heart Hoof and Saginaw – are pretty seasoned.”

Having to decide between running in a stakes or an allowance race were options Rice and owner Mark Vondrasek didn’t know they would have when N.F.’s Destiny was younger.

Six months into his life, N.F.’s Destiny ran into a barbed wire fence, sustaining ligament damage to his shoulder that required surgery. He also suffered neurological damage.

After he overcame that, N.F.’s Destiny had another mishap five months later when, after being weaned from his mother – Noble Fire – he ran headfirst into a barn door, experiencing swelling of the brain. His head is also tilted to the left, something that is still evident today.

“It was touch and go for a few days. We thought we might have to put him down,” said Vondrasek, who owns and breeds horses under the moniker Eklektikos, the Greek word for eclectic. “The vet said they didn’t think the horse was going to make it. A day or two later, the medicine began to work and the vet said you don’t have to consider putting him down.”

N.F.’s Destiny was sent to Rice’s cousin, Pat Hoppel, at his farm near Ocala, Fla. It was there that N.F.’s Destiny continued his recovery and began to develop into a race horse.

“He was in pretty rough shape when he got there,” Rice said. “As he got sunshine he got stronger, he got better, he got healthier. When he was sent to me as a 2-year-old I gave him the summer off. He trained in the fall and he trained beautifully; showed a lot of talent.”

N.F.’s Destiny debuted as a 3-year-old last April 21 at Aqueduct, winning a six-furlong New York-bred maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths.

In subsequent training, N.F.’s Destiny sustained a mild bruise in his right front foot and was given some time off. His mother, Noble Fire, had suffered a career-ending tendon injury during the running of the 2008 Ruthless Stakes, so his connections brought N.F.’s  Destiny back cautiously.

“Given the history of Noble Fire, Linda was very, very cautious to bring him back,” Vondrasek said. “It was a deep-seated foot bruise and she nursed him back. His first race was too good not to give him a chance.”

N.F.’s Destiny returned to the races last fall and finished second in three consecutive allowance races.

On New Year’s Day, N.F.’s Destiny won a statebred allowance by 6 1/4 lengths, running six furlongs in 1:10.02. He came back 18 days later to win a second-level statebred allowance by 3 3/4 lengths, running six furlongs in 1:09.88. All three of his wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion.

Vondrasek said that when jockey Jose Ortiz got off N.F.’s Destiny after the New Year’s Day race he said “this is a special horse.”

Rice said that N.F.’s Destiny will always have the scars of his youth. That his head is cocked to the left sometimes impacts how he breaks from the gate.

“He’ll take a little misstep here and there but really where you notice it the most is in the barn,” Rice said. “But it certainly hasn’t affected his performance.”

If N.F.’s Destiny is to continue his winning ways Saturday, he will have to do it against some seasoned and fast horses. Rein King, who has run 26 times, and Crown the Chief, a 7-year-old making his 39th start, are likely to give N.F.’s Destiny a challenge up front while a speed duel will benefit closers such as Dawly and Black Pen.