11/12/2016 5:47PM

Rosario makes good decisions with Sticksstatelydude in Discovery

Chelsea Durand/NYRA
Joel Rosaro, who chose to ride Sticksstatelydude rather than Governor Malibu in the Discovery, guides the 3-year-old to a 1 1/4-length victory.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Joel Rosario made two smart decisions when it came to Saturday’s Grade 3 Discovery Stakes at Aqueduct.

First, Rosario chose to ride Sticksstatelydude over Governor Malibu. Then he opted to put Sticksstatelydude on the lead early, an advantage he never surrendered in posting a 1 1/4-length victory over Neolithic in the $150,000 Discovery, the last graded stakes restricted to 3-year-olds on this circuit this year.

It was 2 1/4 lengths back to My Man Sam in third. He was followed, in order, by Adulator, Gift Box - the 8-5 favorite - Sunny Ridge, Governor Malibu, Wild About Deb, and Vulcan’s Forge.

Rosario had ridden Governor Malibu in six consecutive races that included a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes and second-place finishes in the Peter Pan at Belmont Park and Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

Rosario had ridden Sticksstatelydude four times, winning twice and finishing second in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park on Sept. 25.

Rosario said he felt Sticksstatelydude was “more manageable” than Governor Malibu and in a race that lacked speed that manageability may have been a factor in gaining the victory.

The early scratch of Hot Seat took the primary speed horse out of the Discovery. In an allowance win at Belmont in July, Sticksstatelydude led all the way. He got off a step slow in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx on Sept. 5 and was a pace-prompter before ultimately finishing second in the Oklahoma Derby.

Saturday, Sticksstatelydude broke alertly from post 3 and he opened up a length lead over Neolithic through a quarter-mile of 24.29 seconds and maintained that margin through a half-mile in 49.21.

Neolithic, under Jose Lezcano, prompted Sticksstatelydude around the turn and into the stretch, but Sticksstatelydude turned him aside and edged clear late.

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“He likes to be close. He’s a big horse; nice stride. I thought if somebody beats me into the first turn I’ll follow them, but I was there in the first turn and I just took it from there,” Rosario said.

Sticksstatelydude, a son of First Dude owned by a group that includes Greg Burchell, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.58 and returned $14.40 as the fourth choice.

Burchell is also the regular trainer of Sticksstatelydude, but for logistical purposes the horse runs under trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s name in his New York races.

“I never was worried about him going a mile and an eighth,” Burchell said. “I’ve never seen him get tired in my life. He just needed some races to get seasoned. Joel knows him well enough. He knows he’ll settle. At the end of the day it worked out perfect.”

It was an emotional win for Burchell, who named the horse for a man for whom he trained, Alvin Haynes, whose nickname was “Sticks” and who died in July 2014, two months before this horse was to be pinhooked at the Keeneland yearling sale. Sticksstatelydude failed to meet his reserve, so Burchell bought him back.

“He was a great man,” Burchell, his eyes tearing up, said of Alvin Haynes.

Among Burchell’s partners on this horse are Mitch and Scott Haynes, sons of Alvin.

Burchell said Sticksstatelydude would soon go to the Palm Meadows training center in South Florida. However, Burchell is eyeing the Oaklawn Park series of races for older males in 2017 which begins with the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes on Jan. 13 and concludes with the Grade 2, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 15.