12/31/2011 5:13PM

Aqueduct: Spa City Fever gives Kelly rare win in Alex Robb

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Spa City Fever, who got away with slow fractions under Alan Garcia, holds off Icabad Crane (middle) to post a $71 upset in the Alex Robb.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. -  A disappointing year came to surprisingly successful conclusion Saturday for trainer Pat Kelly at Aqueduct when Spa City Fever upset the $75,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes by a head over Icabad Crane. Sent off the second-longest shot in the seven-horse field at 34-1, Spa City Fever returned $71.

Taking advantage of a stumbling start by the expected front-runner Stormy’s Majesty, Spa City Fever got away with soft fractions on the lead under Alan Garcia and then held off a late charge from a bottled up Icabad Crane to get his first victory in nine starts this year.

 “I told Alan … if he could fall out of there running, go for it because you got the inside and speed was good,’’ Kelly said. “That’s kind of his best race anyway.’’

For Kelly, it was just his second win since June 19 and only his 11th of 2011.

 “This will help bring it around a little bit,’’ said Kelly, who had been 0 for 19 over the inner track before the Robb. “It goes like that sometimes.’’

Earlier this week, Kelly’s barn office endured a small fire though there was no damage to humans or horses.

Spa City Fever entered the Alex Robb off a sixth-place finish in a second-level allowance race in which he broke slowly and was last early on. Saturday, Stormy’s Majesty, the expected speed of the Robb, stumbled a few strides out of the gate which allowed Spa City Fever and Garcia  - subbing for an injured C.C. Lopez - to get the lead without much trouble. Groomedforvictory, the 9-5 favorite under Ramon Dominguez, was stalking the pace from second.

Garcia got away with an opening quarter in 25.14 seconds, a half-mile in 50.89, and six furlongs in 1:15.39. Groomedforvictory stayed relatively close, but Spa City Fever had enough left to spurt away from him in deep stretch.

The late threat was 2010 Alex Robb winner Icabad Crane, who raced between horses most of the way down the backside and then tried to split horses late under David Cohen only to come up a head short.

 “He’s a very big horse with a long stride, maybe with a little more running room around the turn or down the lane to get him out, to get a clear run it could have been a different story,’’ Cohen said.

 Icabad Crane finished a neck in front of Groomedforvictory who was followed in the order of finish by Inherit the Gold, Stormy’s Majesty, Tap Attack,  and Midnight Billy.

Spa City Fever, a 5-year-old gelded son of Roaring Fever owned and bred by Adam Madkour, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.71.