07/20/2013 5:44PM

Finger Lakes: Amberjack dominates New York Derby in slop

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Tom Cooley Photography
Amberjack, ridden by Jose Espinoza, moves to within one win of earning a $250,000 bonus by winning the New York Derby.

Jockey Jose Espinoza kept switching lanes with Amberjack until he finally found the best part of a sloppy racetrack in the stretch and his colt responded with a strong run that produced a dominant victory in Saturday’s $160,800 New York Derby at Finger Lakes.

Amberjack ($4.50), the favorite in a field of six New York-bred 3-year-olds, drew off by 6 1/2 lengths and is one win away from becoming only the second horse to sweep the Big Apple Triple. He can earn a $250,000 bonus by winning the $150,000 Albany at Saratoga on Aug. 11. Tin Cup Chalice in 2008 is the only previous horse to win all three legs of the series for 3-year-old statebreds.

It was also the third New York Derby victory for trainer Mike Hushion. He won the race in 2003 with Traffic Chief and in 1999 with David.

Amberjack, now 3 for 3 racing in the slop, had dropped back to fourth through six furlongs in 1:12.40, but was only about 1 1/2 lengths off pacesetter Smooth Bert. Espinoza, riding Amberjack for the first time, switched from the rail to the two path coming around the second turn of the 1 1/16-mile race. But it wasn’t until Espinoza moved to the three-path and asked his mount to move between horses that Amberjack really took off. He was only a half-length in front with a furlong remaining, but gained six lengths on his rivals the rest of the way, reaching the wire in 1:44.42.

“He’s a smart horse that has class and can run”, said Espinoza. “I was able to do what I wanted with him.”

Smooth Bert was second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of West Hills Giant.

It was the third straight win for Amberjack, a son of Indygo Shiner owned by Peachtree Stables, since he came to New York and joined Hushion’s barn this spring. Overall, Amberjack is 4 for 6 with earnings of $247,355.

* Sing Dixie Sing ($5.90), claimed for $35,000 two starts ago by Jason Servis on behalf of White Wabbit Wacing, scored a front-running, three-quarter-length victory in the $50,000 Arctic Queen Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares. The 4-year-old Sing Dixie Sing ran six furlongs under John Davila Jr. in 1:11.95.