Updated on 09/16/2011 8:33AM

Gander poster boy for program


The weather was a bit blustery and skies were overcast, but the New York breeding and racing program shined brightly last Saturday at Belmont Park.

Seven stakes worth a total of $1 million were part of the 10-race card, which was devoted entirely to statebreds. In addition to competitive and full fields, there were several non-racing activities held at the track, including a free concert after the races by the Harlem Jazz Festival, a fashion show, sky-divers, a display of antique tractors, and dozens of vendors selling crafts, food, and clothing.

The presence of the popular Harlem Jazz Festival brought a few local television stations out to the track, which was a boon for the New York Racing Association which gained some recognition for Belmont beyond the usual sports coverage.

From a business standpoint, New York Showcase Day was a successful one. The attendance of 14,528 was the second highest at the 33-day Belmont fall meet and ranked behind only Jockey Club Gold Cup Day, which featured a T-shirt giveaway and had an announced attendance of 16,045. Ontrack handle on NYRA races on Showcase Day was $2,302,084, which was second behind Woodward Day when $2,502,593 was wagered.

"I think we could have done better if the weather was a little better," Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president, said. "It was a very good day and action-packed. I thought the quality of the races was very good. There were so many elements to the day and all the activities surrounding the races truly did what we set out do, to build a showcase."

The seven stakes produced some thrilling finishes, including the finale, the $250,000 Empire Classic, which was won for the second time by the popular Gander.

The race was run in near darkness, but Gander's near-white coat was easily recognizable as he streaked under the finish line first, a half-length in front of the late-charging Compelling World. Richard Migliore rode Gander, who was the favorite. Gander, a 6-year-old gelding, is owned by brothers Mike and Ted Gatsas and trained by John Terranova.

Mike Gatsas said Gander, who won the Empire Classic in 1999, is an advertisement for the New York-bred program. "He's been a poster boy for New York-breds and the program. And on a day like [Showcase Day], it's a great for a horse like this to cap it off with a win," Gatsas said. Angela Rugnetta bred Gander, a son of Cormorant. After winning the Empire Classic, Gander has earnings of $1,623,688, which places him fourth on the list of the richest New York-breds.

The other winners on the Showcase card were Quiet Ruler ($150,000 Mohawk); Rhum ($150,000 Ticonderoga); Well Fancied ($125,000 Hudson); Dat You Miz Blue ($125,000 Iroquois); Funny Cide ($100,000 Sleepy Hollow); and Beautiful America ($100,000 Maid of the Mist).

New York-breds at Aqueduct

Four stakes restricted to New York-breds will be run at Aqueduct's 48-day fall meet, which began on Wednesday. The New York-bred stakes are the $75,000-added Montauk (Dec. 1), $75,000-added East View (Dec. 8), $75,000-added Damon Runyon (Dec. 15), and $75,000-added Alex M. Robb (Dec. 29).

Additionally, four stakes restricted to the progeny of New York stallions will be run on Nov. 10. The New York Stallion Series features a pair of races for 2-year-olds, the $125,000 Fifth Avenue (fillies) and $125,000 Great White Way (colts and geldings). There are also a pair of $100,000 grass races, the Perfect Arc (fillies and mares) and Cormorant (males).

o New York freshman sire Tomorrows Cat was represented by his first stakes winner when Abbys Silverdream won the Finger Lakes Juvenile Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths on Oct. 12. Tomorrows Cat stands at Questroyal Stud in New Hampton.

o New York-bred millionaire Fourstardave, who died earlier this month at 17, was buried at Claire Court at Saratoga Race Course. Fourstardave, who earned more than $1.6 million in his 100-race career, won at least one race for eight consecutive years at Saratoga. The popular gelding has a grass stakes named in his honor at the Saratoga meet, which is annually run on Travers Day.

o Western Borders has been moved from Florida to stand the 2003 breeding season at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds. Owned by Buckram Oak Farm, Western Borders's fee will be $2,500. An 8-year-old son of Gone West, Western Borders's first crop are yearlings this year.

o Manlove, who previously stood at Silvernails Farm in Pine Plains, N.Y., has been moved to Liberty Stud in Ghent, N.Y. Manlove, the sire of graded stakes winner Proud Man, is owned by Max Hugel. Manlove's 2003 fee will be $3,000.