Updated on 09/16/2011 9:30AM

Gander gets second Empire Classic


ELMONT, N.Y. - Gander, who won the Empire Classic in 1999, scored another win in the $250,000 New York-bred race on Saturday at Belmont Park.

The 1 1/8-mile was one of seven New York-bred stakes worth a total of $1 million on New York Showcase Day.

Gander, the 4-5 favorite under Richard Migliore, won by a half-length over Compelling World. It was another half-length back to longshot Lord Ofthe Thunder in third in the 12-horse field.

Down the backstretch, Gander sat several lengths off the swift pace, which was set by Brave One. Gander got rolling at about the half-mile pole and seized the lead at the quarter pole.

Gander ($3.60) covered the distance in 1:48.95 over a track labeled fast. He carried 126 pounds as the high weight.

Gander is owned by brothers Mike and Ted Gatsas and trained by John Terranova.

Mike Gatsas said in the winner's circle, "This was a good race for him, to see him win packing all that weight."

Terranova was not at the track on Saturday because he was in Michigan to attend the wedding of a friend.

After the race, Terranova said by phone, "This is awesome. It sounded like [Migliore] had to use him early and then he had to hold them off, giving a lot of weight. He is gutsy as hell."

Terranova is mulling a few options for Gander, including the $400,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29 or the $275,000 Great State Challenge Classic on Dec. 7 at Sam Houston Race Park.

Gander, a 6-year-old gelding, won the 1999 Empire Classic by a neck as the 2-1 favorite. Charles Assimakopoulos was his trainer at the time.

Gander, a son of Cormorant, had finished second in the Woodward behind Lido Palace in his last start. Terranova had hoped to run him in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 4, a race Gander won last year, but Gander banged his head in his stall the day of the race and was scratched.