11/22/2001 12:00AM

Rail can't stop Yonaguska in the Fall Highweight


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Excluded from the Breeders' Cup Sprint because he lacked the necessary points, Yonaguska has made the most of his opportunities since then. On Thanksgiving Day at Aqueduct, Yonaguska scored his second consecutive stakes victory in the $112,200 Fall Highweight Handicap before a crowd of 5,343.

Yonaguska, who won the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap on the Breeders' Cup undercard last month, captured the Grade 2 Fall Highweight by three-quarters of a length over Big E E. It was another length back to Voodoo, the second choice, in third. Completing the order of finish were Silky Sweep, Bay Head King, Istintaj, In C C's Honor, and Nunzio.

Jose Santos rode Yonaguska, the 9-5 favorite and 131-pound highweight in the eight-horse Fall Highweight field, for the first time.

Concerns that Yonaguska's inside post would be a negative were unfounded when Santos was able to ease the 3-year-old Yonaguska to the outside, where he does his best running. Yonaguska, who ran just behind In C C's Honor and Voodoo early in the race, forged to a narrow lead early in the stretch and then held off a late charge from Big E E.

Yonaguska ($5.90) covered the six furlongs in 1:09.60 over a fast track.

Yonaguska provided trainer D. Wayne Lukas with his fifth Fall Highweight win. Lukas also won the race with Mt. Livermore (1985), Carson City (1990), Salt Lake (1992), and Chimes Band (1994).

Lukas was not in town, but Yonaguska's owner, Michael Tabor, was on hand for the winner's circle proceedings.

Lukas's assistant, Mike Marlow, said Yonaguska would now join Lukas's California division.

"The 1-hole didn't end up hurting us," Marlow said. "Good horses can overcome things like that. Jose rode a very smart race."

Santos said he rode Yonaguska with confidence. "The last thing he needed was to be down inside with 131 pounds," he said. "I rode him like he was the best horse he was."