01/19/2013 5:03PM

Aqueduct: Ortiz pinch-hits for injured Dominguez aboard Last Gunfighter in Evening Attire

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Last Gunfighter, with Irad Ortiz Jr. subbing for the injured Ramon Dominguez, scores as the even-money favorite in the Evening Attire.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Though he had just won Saturday’s $75,000 Evening Attire Stakes at Aqueduct aboard Last Gunfighter, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. was not in a celebratory mood.

Ortiz only picked up the mount on Last Gunfighter from Ramon Dominguez, who sustained a fractured skull as a result of a spill at Aqueduct on Friday and remained hospitalized in the intensive care unit of Jamaica Medical Center Hospital. Ortiz became available when his mount for the race, Norman Asbjornson, scratched to run in Monday’s Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel.

Following the race, Ortiz was to have flown with Dominguez to south Florida for the Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park. Ortiz was a finalist for the Eclipse as leading apprentice jockey while Dominguez was expected to win his third straight award as champion journeyman jockey. Ortiz took off his mount in the last to fly to Florida by himself.

 “I’m very close with Ramon and he was supposed to ride that horse but that happens in our business - tough business,” said Ortiz, who stayed with Dominguez’s family at the hospital Friday night. “I feel bad for him but I hope he comes back soon, as soon as possible. Everybody wants him in the jocks’ room.”

In Dominguez’s absence, Irad Ortiz and his brother Jose dominated the proceedings Saturday, each winning three races on the nine-race program.

 Recognizing Aqueduct’s inner track was favoring front-running types on Saturday, Ortiz kept the normally late-running Last Gunfighter within a length of the pace-setting Arlo, who set fractions of 24.68 seconds for the quarter, 49.07 for the first half-mile, and 1:12.75 for six furlongs.

 In midstretch, Isn’t He Perfect, under Mike Luzzi, slipped through inside of Arlo while Last Gunfighter was three wide and trying to make up the ground.

 With 50 yards to go, Last Gunfighter surged past Isn’t He Perfect to get the win by one-half length.

 “At the three-eighths pole I started asking my horse and he was a little lazy,” Ortiz said. “I gave him a couple of left-handed hits and he came back pretty good.”

It was the fourth straight win for Last Gunfighter, all since coming to trainer Chad Brown’s New York barn. Last Gunfighter, a son of First Samurai owned by John Gunther, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.54 and returned $4 as the even-money choice.

 “I was a little nervous at the eighth pole. It looked like he wasn’t going to get by,” said Cherie DeVaux, the New York assistant to Brown. “He’s lightly raced compared to the two he was trying to get by. We’re proud of him.”