03/21/2015 5:14PM

Days Ride prevails in thrilling photo to win Stud Muffin

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Of the eight horses trainer Gustavo Rodriguez ran on Saturday’s inaugural New York Claiming Championships program at Aqueduct, none was sent off a bigger price than Days Ride.

But in easily the most thrilling finish of the 10 stakes races, none proved more game than Days Ride who at odds of 21-1, won a three-way photo finish over Bemata and Wealth to Me to win the $80,000 Stud Muffin Stakes by a nose.

Bemata, who drifted out a path or two in the stretch, was second by a nose over Wealth to Me, who was rallying along the rail.

Days Ride gave Rodriguez and owner Michael Dubb their second win on the card – they also took the $50,000 Kelly Kip with N.F.’s Destiny. It was the third win on the day for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

Rudy Rodriguez claimed Days Ride for $20,000 Jan. 29, a day on which he finished sixth. Gustavo Rodriguez, who is overseeing the barn while Rudy serves a suspension, said the barn wanted to run Days Ride in a $25,000 claimer, but the race didn’t fill.

“They didn’t use the race, so we had no other race, and he was training very good,” Rodriguez said. “I told Mike [Dubb], ‘He’s training very good. It looks like he has no chance, but let’s give it a try and see what happens.’ ”

Days Ride was toward the back of the pack early on while Readthebyline, in his typical fashion, carved out the early fractions of 24.03 seconds for the quarter and 47.85 for the opening half-mile while being chased by Village Warrior and Conspiracy.

Ortiz rallied Days Ride along the inside, then tipped him outside for the stretch. Meanwhile, Bemamta, last under Fernando Jara, launched a wide bid leaving the three-eighths pole, while Wealth to Me, under Cornelio Velasquez, made his move along the rail.

In deep stretch, Wealth to Me got through, but Days Ride, emboldened by Cease to his inside and Bemamta to his outside, surged to the wire to narrowly get the win.

Days Ride, a 7-year-old gelding by Strong Contender, covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.47 and returned $45.60. Combined with the 26-1 Bemata, the 6-5 exacta returned $544.

“He’s a fighter. He’s got one pace,” Ortiz said. “I rode him before. I kept riding, and I hit him, and he gave me that kick at the end.”