02/18/2002 12:00AM

Aqueduct: Vodka takes Hollie Hughes


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Vodka, who trailed his three rivals until the top of the stretch, rallied along the rail under Heberto Castillo Jr. to take command in midstretch and drew off to a 4 1/2-length victory over stablemate Kashatreya in the $77,725 Hollie Hughes Handicap for New York-breds.

Kashatreya, who won the Hollie Hughes in 1999 and 2000, was second for the second consecutive year in the Hollie Hughes as trainer John Hertler's horses ran one-two. Strike the Brass, who set the early pace, finished third, followed by 1-2 favorite Well Fancied. Spectacularspencer and Distant Dibo scratched.

It was the third straight victory for Vodka, and seventh in 21 career starts. He was pinned down inside around the turn, but kicked on when the rail opened up. He covered the six furlongs in 1:11.10 over a fast inner dirt track and returned $9.80 to win.