12/26/2015 6:27PM

Green Gratto can't be stopped in dominant Gravesend victory

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – After Green Gratto prevailed by a head in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thanksgiving Day – his 15th start of 2015 – trainer and part-owner Gaston Grant said the 5-year-old New Jersey-bred horse would get a well-deserved break.

Apparently, Green Gratto was uncooperative with that plan.

“Initially, I said I was going to give him a break and focus towards the Grade 1 Carter [in April], but he just won’t take no for an answer,” Grant said.

Green Gratto showed Saturday he was not in need of a vacation as he put away a nuisance pace challenge from Jake N Elwood and sped clear to a dominant 5 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Gravesend at Aqueduct.

Palace, in the 30th and final start of his career, finished second, a half-length in front of Alex the Terror. Jake N Elwood and Fabulous Kid completed the order of finish. Heaven’s Runway scratched to run in the Dave’s Friend Stakes at Laurel, where he finished fourth as the 2-1 favorite.

It was the sixth win from 37 starts for Green Gratto, a 5-year-old New Jersey-bred son of Here’s Zealous, whom Grant has owned from the beginning but whom he only started training in August.

When he won the Fall Highweight, Green Gratto took advantage of a speed-favoring track and a nine-pound weight concession from Palace. On Saturday, Aqueduct’s inner track was favoring outside closers, and Green Gratto was giving two pounds to Palace.

No matter. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche put Green Gratto in the four path early on down the backside and raced outside of Jake N Elwood while maintaining a one-length lead after an opening quarter of 22.53 seconds. Jake N Elwood couldn’t keep up, and Green Gratto opened up a five-length advantage while running a half-mile in 45 seconds.

Green Gratto never was challenged in the stretch and covered six furlongs in a swift 1:09.89. He returned $10.20 as the third choice.

“I stayed [four] wide the whole way,” Carmouche said. “That’s the best part of the track as you could see all day. The horse just ran awesome. I can’t believe he won by so far. I don’t look back. The wire and the winner’s circle are in front of you.”

While Grant’s goal still is to have Green Gratto ready for the Grade 1 Carter on April 9 – Green Gratto finished second in last year’s Carter – Grant will not lay out a plan to get there. The next sprint stakes in New York is the Grade e $150,000 Toboggan on Jan. 18. After that, there is the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap on March 12.

“I’m not going to say I’m going to give him a break,” Grant said. “I’ll let him tell me if he wants a break because he’s turning me into a liar.”

Meanwhile, trainer Linda Rice will put Palace on a van Monday headed to Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., where he will be a stallion in 2016. Rice claimed Palace for $20,000 in fall 2012, and the horse posted a record of 11-7-2 from 26 starts for her and owner Antonino Miuccio. He won seven stakes, including the Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Forego, both Grade 1 staples at Saratoga.

Overall, Palace retires with a record of 12-7-5 from 30 starts and earnings of $1,586,550.

“It would have been nice to have gotten a win, but it is what it is,” Rice said. “I thought another horse was going to go with [Green Gratto] and we were going to sit off him comfortably. It didn’t pan out that way.”