11/27/2014 5:05PM

Salutos Amigos impresses in Fall Highweight

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Salutos Amigos, with Cornelio Velasquez aboard, scores by 1 3/4 lengths in the Fall Highweight Handicap on Thursday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – On a sloppy, slow, and demanding surface that appeared to favor horses running closer to the pace than off of it, Salutos Amigos, under Cornelio Velasquez, was last with a quarter-mile to run in Thursday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct.

David Jacobson, the part-owner and trainer of the 2-1 favorite and 133-pound highweight, wasn’t too concerned.

“Until you cross the finish line, you’re always worried, but I wasn’t overly worried at the quarter pole,” Jacobson said. “I was watching Cornelio, and he was doing exactly what we discussed.”

Turning for home, Velasquez guided Salutos Amigos into the seven path, and he responded with a strong closing kick to outfinish longshot Mewannarose and win the Fall Highweight by 1 3/4 lengths.

Mewannarose, under John Velazquez, finished 3 1/4 lengths clear of Captain Serious, who was followed by Crafty Dreamer, Bakken, Weekend Hideaway, and La Verdad.

Strapping Groom, Tightend Touchdown, River Rocks – all entered to run in Saturday night’s Fabulous Strike Handicap at Penn National – and Bama Bound scratched.

The win was the sixth from 24 starts for Salutos Amigos, a 4-year-old gelding by Salute the Sarge owned by Jacobson and Michael Moreno’s Southern Equine Stable.

Salutos Amigos won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Belmont on Oct. 26 and was wheeled back in a week in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, where he finished seventh, beaten only three lengths by Work All Week. That rigorous schedule may have benefitted Salutos Amigos on a demanding surface made so by about an inch of rain here Wednesday.

Salutos Amigos was kept in midpack by Velasquez early as Weekend Hideaway set the pace, pressed by La Verdad. The posted half-mile time of 46.25 seconds won’t look fast on paper, but it was quick given the surface.

Velasquez said he was following Bakken, the horse he felt he had to beat, when that horse tired. That forced Velasquez back to last and made him have to follow another horse, Mewannarose, a 20-1 shot who was moving nicely under Velazquez.

But once in the clear, Salutos Amigos kicked in and galloped home a relatively easy winner. Salutos Amigos covered the six furlongs in the slop in 1:10.78 and returned $6.

“I put him in the clear at the eighth pole, and I had a lot of horse,” Velasquez said. “I think he was the best horse in the race.”

Jacobson had thought about cross-entering Salutos Amigos in Saturday’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile but felt that that race was too tough. He was impressed, though, with his gelding’s performance on Thanksgiving Day.

“Carrying that weight, running this kind of race, he’s a special horse,” Jacobson said. “He keeps proving it over and over again.”

Jacobson said he would consider running Salutos Amigos in the $100,000 Gravesend over Aqueduct’s inner track Dec. 26.